- Smooth Jazz Network
Brooke Alford: Behind the Beats
Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Brooke Alford.
Brooke Alford’s current single “On the Move” is currently ‘on the move’ on our Smooth Jazz Network Top 100 chart. We grabbed a few moments with the smooth violinist for this week’s BEATS.
Brooke, congratulations on yet another charting single! “On The Move” is getting a lot of buzz in the smooth jazz world and it is your third successful single in the past year or so. Tell us how this single came about…
Thank you so much! I am truly grateful for deciding to just “go for it” in 2021. Since my Father, Dr. Vernon R. Alford Jr. transitioned in 2020 from cancer, a fire was ignited within me to fulfill the Legacy in which he instilled: Excellence in all that you do. “On the Move” was inspired by yet another one of the many life lessons that my Father and my Mother, Dell Alford, taught me: No matter what, “Keep it movin’!” My life and career are absolutely “On the Move” in this active season, and I am here for it!
You may be a newer smooth jazz artist to some of our readers, but you have released 4 previous CD’s. Has your approach to selecting songs to record changed over the years?
What a great question! Let me share some backstory with you. Music has never been a stranger to me. Music has been in my life ALL of my life, considering my Mother Dell was a professional pianist, vocalist, and organist. I formally started studying piano at age 5 with my Mother. Shortly thereafter, I was performing and competing in talent shows and pageants. I was in love with music and started writing art music compositions for solo piano at age 10. The violin came into the picture around that same age:) By the time I was 13, I had written several more compositions, this time for violin and piano. Music fueled me, but competition gave me that drive. I was a very competitive child (hence the pageants and talent shows from age 5, and later, competitive athletics in 5k running and fitness lol). I would enter my works into art competitions in grade school and actually win 1st place majority of the time! Winning was definitely a confidence booster and great motivator to keep me going in musical creation! I still have that competitive streak to this day, but the focus has shifted from competing against others to competing against myself. I am my only true competition.
I had so much music to share by the time I got to my collegiate studies at The Florida State University College of Music. I wanted to professionally record all of my childhood art music compositions and newer contemporary jazz pieces that I had written in college. My desire was to share these pieces with those in my church and the community! I had no intention to create an official album to release! It wasn’t until I had a conversation with an Executive Producer in the music business that wanted to talk to me about my musical direction. I thought I would go the Gospel music route since at the time, I loved church and Gospel Music, but he suggested that I start playing R&B and popular favorites. This is how I started playing R&B and how my debut album, “Expressions” was born. From classical, to contemporary jazz, to R&B, and a hint of bluegrass, “Expressions” was an ‘expression’ of the many styles of music that had significance and resonance in my life. As I continued to mature as a young woman in the music industry, I met many other Executives, artists, and creatives in the business. I lived in NYC at one point in my career to expand my Clientele and advance to greater professional heights. Living there heavily influenced the style of my second CD, “The Viosocalist.” This project was an exciting collaborative effort of R&B, Hip-hop, and Gospel production with fantastic and notable producers and artists. I took new risks and faced many musical fears while creating that project.
I “stumbled” into my first Smooth Jazz single “Closer” when I re-connected with International Recording Artist Bob Baldwin in 2018. (We had initially met a few years prior in Georgia at a printing store!) I am thankful that Bob offered to be a mentor to me in 2018 since I didn’t know much about Smooth Jazz Radio at the time. I had originally written “Closer” as a “Smooth Hip-Hop” tune. Bob heard the original track and said, “Let’s remix it for Smooth Jazz radio.” Once we completed the “Closer Remixes” EP in 2018, that’s when I officially received national radio airplay for the first time. From there, I was also inspired to create the EP, “My Christmas” for Smooth Radio. In 2021, three years after releasing “Closer Remixes,” it was time to release new music and present a fresh look and sound to my audience. My “re-introduction” to the Smooth Jazz world was with my single, “SHINE”! Now in 2022, “New Day” and “On the Move” are my latest single releases that are currently on the Smooth Jazz charts. All three singles are a result of choosing a life path of self betterment, courage, newness, and Being LOVE, because the world needs so much of it.
… and how soon can we expect your 5th CD?
I am thrilled to release my upcoming CD in winter of 2023. It’s definitely time.
Since 2007, you have really been a true independent artist. Tell us about that process and how your career as a professional musician has advanced over time.
As the great entrepreneur and business leader Jim Rohn said, “In order for it to get better, YOU have to be better.” An Independent Artist’s music and business is only as good as his or her self development. Being an independent artist demands growth, tenacity, audacity, perseverance, and drive at the very least to get to where you desire in your path! Through my 15 year career as an independent artist and one who never worked in corporate America more than 3 short months after graduating from college, I have often been asked “What keeps you going in your musical career?” It wasn’t until three years ago that I could fully answer that question. Previously, my response was, “Because my freedom is too valuable and rewarding to stop!” This response is still relevant, but with more intention.
My recently refined “Why” inspires me to be greater and more impactful.
Claiming my Divine Heritage and who I truly am as a maturating woman has also brought my purpose into clear light. I realize that my music (whether audibly or at a live show) impacts humanity on levels beyond the music. It’s all about the energy exuded through the music and the conviction when I play. When I decided to execute a full physical, mental, and spiritual cleansing protocol in 2019 to be a beacon of health for my family and so many others, my life and my music changed. My creativity has flowed like water in many areas and I am of better service to myself, my family, and to the world through my musical offerings.
This past year you were nominated for a ‘women in jazz’ award… (you can simply elaborate on this)
It was an honor to receive this nomination which actually occurred in 2014. I was living in NYC at the time. That same year, I was invited to perform for the International Women’s Day Concert in Manhattan and for the YWCA International Conference in Washington D.C. It was a celebratory year in womanhood and I was honored to be a part of those events and receive the notification about the Women In Jazz Award nomination.
You have worked with several smooth jazz artists including Marcus Anderson, Julian Vaughn, and Bob Baldwin among others. Tell us how other contemporary jazz musicians have impacted you as an artist.
I consider Marcus and Julian like Big Brothers in the business. I have watched them grow through the years (simultaneously as I have grown) in their music and craft. I have learned so much from their movements in business and musically through social media and conversations we’ve had along the way.
Bob is like a musical Uncle to me. He has mentored me from my start in Smooth Jazz and has helped me to understand my musical approach and the Business in working in Smooth Jazz. He has truly been a blessing and who I accredit for breaking me into Smooth Jazz Radio.
And you have opened for some amazing artists and entertainers over the years. Can you share some highlights?
Now that’s a loaded question Allen! But I will do my best lol. While I have enjoyed opening for incredible artists such as The Whispers, Najee, Peabo Bryson, Will Downing, and Paul Taylor, I must say that it’s an even more dynamic experience to share the stage with the artist! I will never forget the time I played with Alex Bugnon. It was a living dream that I did not want to end! Pure magic and chemistry onstage. I learned so much in those moments playing with Alex that I have carried with me until this day in my playing and career.
Recently, I was invited to tour with Reggae Superstar, Legend, and Icon of Lover’s Rock Reggae Beres Hammond on an East Coast Run Summer 2022. Playing alongside Beres for sold out shows every single night on that tour for thousands of people was mind blowing! The feeling and excitement was amazing and like none other!
I read that you grew up in a very musical household. Did it start with jazz?
I grew up in a very musical household indeed! Both of my parents retired as Educators of over 30 years and were Creatives. Both of them were from small towns in the Carolinas with big dreams and visions for themselves and their family. My Mother Dell is from Rex, NC and my Father Vernon was from Bennettsville, NC. Determined to raise their children (me and my two siblings Mia Alford Fearon and Vernon Alford III) in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA where more opportunity presented itself, that’s the move my parents made when I was 6 years of age. I mentioned earlier that my Mother was a professional pianist, choral teacher, and organist. My Father was a Creative writer, published author of Children’s books, musician (singing and guitar), and visual artist. I was introduced to the soul music of Ottis Redding, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin as an infant! My Dad was a country music lover as well and loved playing and singing James Taylor on his guitar. Motown was another staple in the Alford Household, which included a WHOLE lotta Jacksons, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson! Once I started playing the violin, my Mother balanced it all out by gifting me with albums of Western European Classic Music (aka Classical Music) of Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Debussy as well as Gospel Music and Jazz that incorporated stringed instruments. I was surrounded by many styles, but my formal training and schooling on violin was in The Western European Classic Tradition from the start.
And now you are paying it forward by instructing young artists.
Without those that paid it forward in my life and musical development, I would not be doing what I am doing today for sure! It is important for me to work with young people, just as both of my parents did as Educators. I witnessed my entire life the impact they had on numerous lives, and naturally I wanted to be impactful, too. Not only do the youth keep me on my toes when it comes to challenging my thinking and what I am teaching them, it’s simply a great feeling to share knowledge and time with those that want to learn!
In 2020, I established The Brooke Alford Violin and Viola Studies Program which is a one-on-one training program created to bridge a much needed gap for grade school students who no longer receive training at their schools due to music program shut downs. This program is conducted physically for students in the metro-Atlanta area and virtually for those located in other places nationally and internationally. My Studies program also gives me the opportunity to work with matured students in their 30 to their 70s who want to get back into their training from 20 and 30 years ago.
Being selected to work with The Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp (MWROC) and Mark Wood Electrify your Strings Program (EYS) in 2021 and 2022 was truly an honor. Students from around the world and the country attend these programs. They are eager to learn contemporary music and various styles of playing on their stringed instruments. My focus during the MWROC camp was “Hip-Hop 101: Violin and Bow with Hip-Hop Flow”. My course was an intro to Hip-Hop Culture and how to approach the style as a string player.
Just this month, I started working with another influential music program called “Henry for Music”. This is an after-school enrichment program in Henry County, GA for students in 3rd - 5th grade. I work with the students in a group setting of about 6 - 8 students per class. It is a joy to know that I am a part of the children’s lives during some of their most impressionable years.
Thanks so much Brooke! Any advice for artists just starting out?
What I highly suggest to any new artist is finding a mentor who you admire, and then shadowing them! Learn the business of music, the recording and radio world, accounting, organizational tools, and finance through your mentor if possible. That knowledge is just as important as knowing your craft if you want to be successful in the music business! Having a mentor will save you so much time, headache, and money!
Second, In the midst of the hustle and bustle of being a professional musician, never forget why you loved to play in the first place and keep reliving that feeling everytime you play and perform on stage!
Third, Never Give Up! It gets hard and challenges definitely come, but when you experience those triumphs, that’s when it’s all worth it!
Learn more more on her website.