An Interview with Jaz Sawyer: Musician and Humanitarian

How did you first get involved with GLIDE?  My parents met at GLIDE and were actively involved in some of the earlier programs, as well as their own tokens of contributing to community development. How long ago was that? I arrived in May 1978, so that’s how long I have been involved. I’m one of the original GLIDE babies, which I’m proud to boast!
Have you volunteered (serving meals)? Yes, I have served several times over the years, a few times during Holidays and also throughout the year. What motivated you to first volunteer? My Mom. She would always suggest it. Not just to instill value in me, but also for what I might discover and learn from the experience.
How else do you give back? By making myself available for the young people at GLIDE for guidance or help with career direction. I feel proud to be a role model for GLIDE’s youth and teens. I’ve been blessed to have been able to make a career of music, which not everyone gets the chance to do. From 2001-2002 and 2009 to the present, I have conducted Music Residency Programs as Program Coordinator/Music Instructor for the youth, teens and families at both the Cecil Williams GLIDE Community House and the Janice Mirikitani Family, Youth, and Childcare Center.  Giving back also means passing along skills and knowledge I’ve learned through the music industry that can be helpful to a member’s journey.

What does community service mean to you? It means to be active and contribute to your neighbors and others around you. Whether you are physically present in your community or not. The idea of a “village is needed to raise a child” brings a sense of harmony and selflessness to the table, but may also come in the form of an idea a message and plan to help others to prosper and achieve success any where in the world. If a community is unbalanced you cannot expect its youth to thrive. It’s extremely important that our youth are knowledgeable so they can be productive so when they grow up a positive cycle can be created.
What are you passionate about? Performing and recording music to the best of my abilities. Also music education for young people. I have had some great teachers some of which include the late legendary drummer/educator Eddie Marshall who let me play drums with the Change Band much like young Miles Turk is doing so effortlessly today.  Of course John Turk and the Change Band mentored me through the years with encouragement to develop my passion.

What inspires you? I’m inspired by master musicians such as drummer Art Blakey, vocalist Abbey Lincoln and some upcoming musicians Ranzel Merritt, Aneesa Al-Musawwir, and Elena Pinderhughes. Also other artists of movement/word disciplines, stories of triumph over injustice, and the people I surround myself with.
What are you thankful for? My family, friends, GLIDE’s mission and constant inspiration, my health and that I’ve been able to make music all over the world, earning a few accomplishments along the way.
What’s playing on your iPod?
A whole bunch of new tracks from some artists I’m working with for upcoming albums to be released on Pursuance Records this year and next. Recently, Time For Tyner by McCoy Tyner (pianist of John Coltrane), Billie Holiday Complete Decca Recordings, Warren Wolf (exciting new vibraphonist)… believe it or not I could be considered a Jazz Head! I also scan the local Jazz, Classical, Classic R & B, World Music radio stations as well as Hip Hop/Pop radio stations to stay current with the new trends and keep up with my students.
Check out a live performance by Jaz Sawyer on December 1st at the Love Groove: GLIDE’s Annual Holiday Jam! Listen to more of Jaz’s music on iTunes.