There are artists that perform, and there are artists that create. This artist creates, composes, theorizes and orchestrates beyond what most average musicians could dream…in fact, often times some of the top musicians need his help too! Meet Dr. Glenn Caldwell!
Glenn is a current resident of Columbia, MD and a music theory professor at McDaniel College. He is also a sought after musician, composer and orchestrator whom has worked with numerous popular artists, such as classical great Denyce Graves, and gospel greats Dorinda Clark-Cole & Richard Smallwood.
Glenn was born in Gastonia, North Carolina but grew up and attended public schools in nearby Clover, South Carolina which is about eight miles away. His earliest formal training in music took place when he was around the age of seven or eight. Glenn took piano lessons but soon stopped because he felt that he was “missing too many important episodes of ‘Batman’” (yes – that’s right, Adam West). He continued to use the piano as a writing tool but picked up the clarinet and saxophone to study more seriously.
After completing high school Glenn attended North Carolina A&T State University to pursue a degree in music. While there he studied privately with William C. Smiley (sax), but was also encouraged by professors to compose and arrange music for A&T’s marching and concert bands. Nearing the completion of college, Glenn and several students met with former A&T president, Samuel DeWitt Proctor, who was, at that time, Director of African-American Studies at Rutgers University. Proctor’s influence prompted Glenn to attend graduate school at Rutgers and complete a masters in education. While there Glenn worked as a teaching assistant in the jazz division under jazz notables Kenny Barron, Paul Jeffrey, Bill Fielder, Larry Ridley, and Ted Dunbar. It was also there that his interest in jazz performance and composition intensified.
Glenn’s first job after Rutgers was Director of Bands in the public school system of Mullins, South Carolina. It was, as he states, “my first music-related job so I knew that further graduate work would be needed to pursue my interests in composition and arranging.” After two years he re-entered graduate school in the music theory division at The Ohio State University. After the completion of the masters degree he was accepted into the music theory doctoral program. He studied composition with Marshall Barnes and also continued to pursue his interest in jazz by studying privately with Vince Andrews (sax) and Hank Marr (piano).
Let’s hear more from Glenn and his experiences that led him to where he is today:
Q: What part of the DMV are you reppin’?
A: I’m reppin’ Columbia, MD.
Q: What influenced you to engage in your talents/gifts?
A: As a kid growing up in the country – in South Carolina – I had fed outlets except a piano that stayed in the living room. It was either “discover music” or “listen to the birds chirp”. At least that what I thought my options were. As time went pass, I began to “hear” my own music and I also grew an interest in orchestrating and arranging.
Q: How has your community influenced you, and vice versa?
A: Yes. I grew up hearing spirituals that folks rarely hear today and that music, to some degree, affects how I compose. Also, while attending North Carolina A&T State University, I heard classic jazz for the first time and that surrounding community, in Greensboro, affected my music as well. In addition, the gospel “community” of Columbus, Ohio affected me in that many of the jazz performers there were also great gospel performers.
Q: If there’s anything that you would want your peers & supporters to know about you (assuming that they don’t already), what would it be?
A: I’m really a small-town person.
Q: Who is your favorite artist/group to have worked with thus far?
A: Well . . . . . . I’d say Byron Cage because he tends to be open to ideas outside of his own. The most recognized name of someone that I’ve done orchestrations/arrangements for is Stevie Wonder but it was “subcontract” work. I met him once but I doubt that he remembers me.
Q: What’s next?!
A: Johannesburg, South Africa and a book. I’m doing 15 orchestrations for a gospel concert that is to take place at Rhema Church in Johannesburg on September 20, 2014. This church, to my understanding, holds 7,000 people and I’m also doing the conducting the Johannesburg Music Initiative Orchestra in this concert. With the orchestra there will be a choir, rhythm section, and a host of featured gospel vocalists. Jonathan Butler will be one of the featured artists. I don’t speak Zulu but I’ll need to introduce a couple of the South African artists to the audience.
I’m also writing a book on Rogers Simon, a Harlem hairstylist who was most noted for putting the “s-wave” in processed/conked hair. He was a personal barber for boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, and many, many others. My main interest in him is that he wrote pop/jazz tunes from the 1940s through the 1970s.
You can keep up with Glenn and his future endeavors via his Facebook page (Glenn Caldwell) and his website at www.gcaldwellmusic.com. There’s no telling what type of great musicianship will come next!