Trombonist Marcus Lewis has been busy since graduating Valdosta State University Music in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in jazz performance.
He earned a master’s degree in trombone performance from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. A Waynesboro native, he returned to Georgia, taking up residence in Marietta. There, he leads a quintet and tours with the Marcus Lewis Band and the Grammy-nominated vocalist Janelle Monae.
“Marcus just released his debut CD entitled ‘Facing East’ which features a world class line-up including Logan Richardson on alto sax, Adam Larson on tenor sax, Pablo Masis on trumpet, Andrea Lewis on vocals, Sam Harris on piano, Aidan Carroll on bass, and Tommy Crane on drums,” according to a short bio on Lewis. “The album was featured in Vogue Magazine as being one of the top albums on Janelle Monae’s 2012 Summer Playlist. Marcus Lewis is currently working on music for a new CD to be released in the fall of 2013.”
As his star rises, he returns this week to VSU for the annual Pops in the Park concert to raise money for music student scholarships. He will be joined by vocalist Tania Myers, who returns to Pops by popular demand, a VSU grad and singer who regularly performs in Valdosta establishments. The concert will also feature current VSU Music faculty, students and performing groups, such as the Steel Drum Band under the direction of Paul Campiglia; VSU Jazz Ensemble directed by David Springfield; the New Jazz Ensemble directed by Dr. Joren Cain; the Faculty Jazz Combo and the Spotlighters Vocal Jazz Ensemble directed by Paul Neal, said Dr. David Johnson, a retired VSU music professor, a one-time music department head, and a Pops organizer.
Lewis tells The Times it “feels great” returning to VSU. “I hope that the monies raised will help current and future students continue to get the great education and opportunities that I did here at VSU,” Lewis said.
He describes his VSU Music education as “eye opening.”
“I was surrounded by an immense amount of talent and caring teachers,” Lewis says. “It was very inspiring for me. VSU has a great curriculum as well as it prepares students for the ‘real world.’ Valdosta State is the foundation for my musical network and knowledge.”
Dr. Doug Farwell, VSU trombone professor, Valdosta Symphony Orchestra executive director, and interim VSU music department head, taught Lewis at VSU. “Yes, I still keep in touch with Dr. Farwell,” Lewis says. “He is actually very good at keeping up with his former students. I owe more to him than I can ever say here. He was my first trombone teacher. In my opinion, Dr. Farwell is one of the finest trombone teachers on the planet!”
Lewis started VSU in 1996 as a music education major, switching to performance after the first year. Prior to arriving at VSU, he had already spent several years learning and playing trombone, having discovered it in sixth grade.
“I always thought it looked like a cool instrument to play because it was so different than all of the other instruments,” Lewis says of selecting the trombone. “I knew it was the instrument for me when I first held, played it. The sound, character, overtones, and everything about it resonate with my own personality.”
At Pops, audiences can hear this resonance as Lewis performs several numbers with various VSU groups. He’s been preparing three of his original tunes to perform with the Faculty Combo, “Fluid Motion,” “Andrea’s Tune” and MGD.” With the New Jazz Ensemble, Lewis will perform Curtis Fuller’s “Alamode,” Frank Mantooth’s “Scam and Eggs.” With the Jazz Ensemble, he’s set to perform original compositions “Facing East” and “Russian Roulette,” and Thad Jones’ “Greetings and Salutations,” David Baker’s “Honesty,” and the Ray Charles version of “America.”
Given even the couple hundred of miles distance, Lewis has been preparing for the show via regular emails and calls with VSU’s Johnson and Springfield. He and the groups have been rehearsing separately. They will rehearse together Thursday morning, prior to that evening’s Pops performance.
Given he is performing to help raise scholarships for students, The Times asked what advice he would give young musicians considering a career in music.
“Do it now! Not later! Practice now! Not later,” Lewis says. “I think personality also has a lot to do with most people hiring you. I know lots of talented trombone players that can play circles around me but are not getting gigs. Also, surround yourself around players and people who are better than you. Lastly, don’t ever give up on your career, if you truly believe in yourself and your music.”
The Valdosta State University Music Department and Music Scholarship Alliance present the annual Pops in the Park.
When: 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11.
Where: Amphitheater, outside of the VSU Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood.
Tickets: $15, adult; $8, student, senior citizen; free, children 12 and under.
Reservations: Call (229) 333-2150.
More information: Call (229) 251-0166.