We recently spent some time chatting with New York-based trumpeter/vocalist/songwriter Bria Skonberg, who will be at Centrum for Jazz Port Townsend in 2013. Originally from Chilliwack, BC, Bria has been a bandleader and guest artist all over North America, Europe, China and Japan. Best known for her knowledge of classic jazz and pursuit of worldwide fun, she is creating a style all her own rooted in swampy New Orleans and blues with swing, pop and world music influences.
You started your career so early at the age of 16. How have you developed and what have you learned as a performer since that time?
My first gig was singing with a big band at 16 – what a rush! I genuinely love playing for people and sharing symbiotic energy with an audience. It’s easy to get caught up in your own head while performing by thinking technically, battling nerves, and trying to remember what comes next. It’s been a steady climb of all these challenges since then and at this point I’m really enjoying letting go to enjoy and share the music while it happens.
The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn,so my general rule is simply work hard, stay humble.
Let’s not beat around the bush: you’re a striking woman playing a strikingly unsexy instrument. Please comment. Hopefully you’re a role model to a slew of young girls.
Wait…the trumpet is an unsexy instrument?? I tell my female students to not sweat it: stick out your gut, pucker your face and make some noise! But I tell that to the guys too.
This will be your first year teaching at Centrum. First of all, welcome! What are you looking forward to?
Thank-you! I’m really looking forward to meeting and hearing new people, expanding on my own teaching skills from the experience and making music with the incredible faculty. I’m from the Pacific Northwest and am greatly looking forward to spending that time in such a beautiful part of the world.
What other musical education programs have you taken part in? How do you think Centrum will compare?
I am a 13 year alumni of the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Camps; I was first a camper, then a counselor, and have been a full faculty member for a few years. That camp is centered around introducing traditional styles of jazz and its roots which I’m grateful to have had as my first introduction to improvising and ensemble playing.
I received my BA in Jazz Performance from Capilano University in Vancouver, and feel like I’ve been in a Masters’ program since moving to New York in 2010. I can tell from the people I’ve talked to that the principles at Centrum are the same: create a joyful learning environment where taking risks is encouraged, challenge and support each other while gaining performance experience, and equip students with the tools and inspiration to create on their own.
Apparently you’ve been known to mix stand-up comedy into your jazz gigs. Brava! The world needs more trumpet-wielding comediennes. How has that been received? Will Centrum be able to get a taste of this?
I LOVE stand-up comedy, and appreciate that their career climb is not too different than that of a jazz artist – the best way to get better is to put your real self out there, possibly fall on your face and learn from it. In one show I actually hired a couple of stand up comedians to do bits between our music sets so I wasn’t cracking the jokes thankfully, although my natural self is slightly awkward and some find it funny. I’m still looking to synthesize the two arts; right now I’m working on putting one of George Carlin’s raps to music. Stay tuned