May 2019 — North Mecklenburg High senior Lovell Bradford Jr has had a memorable month. He received 3rd place in the coveted Loonis McGlohon Young Jazz Artist Competition and Wynton Marsalis knows him by first name. With a scholarship to UNC Greensboro in music, he is looking forward to keep up the momentum. Meanwhile, his experiences in music at his age are inspirationfor all of us.
“When I was toddler sitting in the car seat, instead of nursery rhymes, I was hearing this complex music.” His father, Lovell Sr., is a professional jazz pianist who shared his passion for music. A minister of music at Mount Carmel Baptist, Lovell Sr. would give his son the freedom to play around on the piano, and eventually taught formal lessons when he became really interested.
Lovell then learned what he believes to be critical to his understanding of how to be successful. “When I was little, there were times I would wake in the middle of the night, and I would hear the piano for hours and hours. By example, I learned that hard work and dedication are important no matter how good you are.”
Lovell has been a student of JazzArts Youth Ensemble for 5 years, starting in the summer of 7th grade on piano. “We had another piano player, and one day Dad was like, you should give bass a try.” His dad had an old fender jazz electric bass he hadn’t touched in years. He started there, being able to play one Beatles song and some chords, and moved up to stand up bass later.
While Lovell has grown dramatically as a young musician, he is most grateful to the JazzArts Youth Ensemble for the connections they have made. “I wouldn’t have played with other students like Veronica Leahy and Ariel Mieja, who are as adamant about music as I am and push me to be better. I wouldn’t have made connections to more senior musicians like Sean Mason and Malcolm Charles who provided an example. I can call Sean Mason, now at Julliard, for advice on college decisions. My jazz heros have taken the time to sit down and talk with me. I am inspired by their humanity and humility.”
Like most teens, Lovell makes his own spending money with a job. Unlike most teens, it is playing gigs rather than serving burgers. He has been playing professionally since age 17. Outside of that, Lovell enjoys basketball and family time.
At a recent event, Lovell had the opportunity to perform with renowned Wynton Marsalis as part of the JazzArts All-Star Youth Ensemble. Lovell was playing on a borrowed bass. In the middle of “All the Things You Are”, the bridge of the bass slipped from the body, and it fell apart. “I vividly remember looking back and seeing owner Ron Brendle looking at his bass in pieces. I just thought- I’m gonna have to pay for this bass.” After the group finished the set, Wynton shook my hand and smiled, “Congratulations. I have never witnessed something like that before.” They took the bass aside and it was easily repaired. “I was nervous to play again, but Lonnie (President and CEO of JazzArts Charlotte) convinced me to play the night out. It was a learning night for me.” Lovell laughs at the video of that moment that went viral on Instagram #jazzmemes.
With a stream of learning experiences already, Lovell Bradford Jr. exhibits professionalism beyond his years. JazzArts Charlotte will enjoy following his future, as one of our students who will be creating the future of jazz.