Baltimore - a city made famous worldwide by HBO dramas like The Wire and The Corner for its ruthless illegal drug trade, unscrupulous police practices, corrupt politicians and failing public school system - is a city of great contrast and promise. In the midst of the despair, there are many men and women who are standing firm and taking action to fight the maladies that plague the lives of so many in this great city.
This latest article is a continuation of an on-going series that spotlights Baltimoreans who are making a difference to positively impact the lives of others.
Baltimore's Best: Dontae Winslow
"You neva be a trumpet playa ... neva be a rapper, producer, composer ... ya nothing ... you'll neva make it here ... that's what the teachers said; they counted me for dead."- Dontae Winslow from The Life Album
A native Baltimorean and music prodigy, Dontae Winslow is a Johns Hopkins' Peabody Graduate, the 2012 Young Maestro Award recipient, a loving husband, compassionate father and one of Baltimore's best. Winslow, who is scheduled to perform this Friday (9/28) at the Baltimore Book Festival, is featured on the cover of the latest issue of The Johns Hopkins Magazine.
I had the distinct honor of interviewing Dontae Winslow about his latest musical accomplishments.
Lynn Pinder: Who is Dontae Winslow, and what is your connection to Baltimore?
Dontae Winslow: I am a trumpeter, composer, music producer, educator, husband, and father - who was raised in [Baltimore and is a product of] the Baltimore City Public School System.
LP: What is The Young Maestro Award, and how is it connected to you?
DW: The Young Maestro Award is a rarely given certificate of achievement from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. I am the 2012 recipient of The Young Maestro Award. [The award is in recognition] of my songwriting, compositions, and recording accolades in contemporary music.
LP: What life accomplishments are you extremely proud/blessed to have completed?
DW: I am extremely proud to have scored my first major feature film, In the Hive, by iconic Director/Actor, Robert Townsend. I am blessed to have an amazing wife of twelve years, Mashica Winslow, and a healthy, happy six-year old son, Jedi. I am proud to have a family band, WinslowDynasty, and a new CD, The Life Album which features my new sound, new trumpet, and new band - highlighting the talents of both my wife and son.
I feel honored to have won the fellowship to attend The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at The University of Southern California. I was one of six people selected from thousands of auditions world-wide by legendary judges Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, and Ron Carter. I am also amazed that I won first place in the John Lennon International Songwriting Competition for the song, I Love School.
LP: What steps did you take to prepare for a career in the musical arts?
DW: Seeing the greatness demonstrated by trumpeters like Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, and Maurice Andre, I was inspired to take my instrument seriously. I began private lesson instruction at the Baltimore School for the Arts TWIGS Program in the eighth grade. During my high school years at the Baltimore School for the Arts, it was my mother's unfortunate struggle with drug addiction that gave me the impetus to forsake all other activities and to try hard to succeed in music.
LP: What has been your greatest challenge as a musician?
DW: The greatest challenge has been getting my music to a mainstream of consumers without [the benefits] of radio play, PR power firms, or major label financial backing.
LP: What has been your greatest joy as a musician?
DW: My greatest joy is performing with my wife on stage with my band, full Symphony Orchestra or Jazz Big Band.
LP: What impact have you made on the lives of young people in Baltimore?
DW: I taught music for three years at the Gilmor Edison Elementary school, and I formed an amazing choir, The Gilmor Choir. [We] recorded a CD to inspire kids to attend college and toured the city performing in nursing homes, high schools, and other elementary schools. I was also awarded the opportunity [to take the children] to perform in Nashville, Tennessee - opening for The Black Eyed Peas.
LP: What inspired you to create a line of trumpets?
DW: I had many struggles as a young kid playing the trumpet - from embouchure changes recommended by teachers and playing instruments that required too much air to playing high notes. I found that having a smaller frame body, I needed a trumpet that would play more efficiently. I also wanted a trumpet to have [produce] a sound that was more conducive to the line of work I was most fond of doing - R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop, and Jazz music.
LP: What advice would you offer to aspiring musicians?
DW: I would offer [aspiring musicians] the advice of consistent practice and preparation [in order for them] to succeed as musicians. One needs versatility and proper instruction from sensitive, yet knowledgeable professionals on a given field of interest. Prayer and hard work will always lead to great results.
Dontae Winslow is scheduled to perform at the Baltimore Book Festival on Friday, September 28th 6:30 p.m. His new CD, The Life Album, is available for sale on iTunes and Cdbaby.com. [Supporters can] follow Dontae Winslow on Twitter @winslowdynasty or visit www.winslowdynasty.com.