Noted trumpeter to host jazz clinic Tuesday in Port Angeles

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Music lovers, especially ones with a taste for jazz, have a rare opportunity at Peninsula College on Tuesday.

That’s the day noted jazz trumpeter Steve Swanson will present a free jazz improvisation clinic in Maier Hall, the intimate performance space on the campus at 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.

The public clinic at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday will have Swanson giving a short discussion on jazz before playing a set of basic tunes with the Peninsula College Jazz Ensemble, which brings together musicians from Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Now a Port Angeles resident, Swanson has enjoyed a storied performance career, playing lead trumpet during the 1980s with Gladys Knight, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Johnny Mathis, Mel Torme, Natalie Cole, Ben Vereen and Frank Sinatra.

Swanson’s roots run deep in the Pacific Northwest. He grew up in Bremerton, started playing trumpet in the fourth grade and followed his musical passion to Olympic College, where he played in the Olympic College Jazz Band.

From there, he transferred to the University of Washington and played for the Studio Jazz Band under director Roy Cummings.

He also studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston — before being offered a job with Lou Rawls in 1977.

He took the job and later toured with Lionel Hampton before moving to New York, where he continued to play with some of the best-known jazz artists of the day.

As for Tuesday’s clinic, you don’t have to be a musician to enjoy it, Swanson notes.

“Improvisation is not as mysterious as it may seem. We improvise daily in our lives and work,” any time we tell a story or a joke.

“The rhythm of storytelling is just the same as improvising on an instrument: a beginning, a middle and end or climax,” delivered as only the particular teller can.

“I have a lot of good stories, too,” Swanson quipped.

The trumpet man is also an educator whose credits include teaching improvisation and brass at Olympic College, where he was an assistant director for the jazz program.

“Throw away any preconceived notions that there are shortcuts. There aren’t,” he tells students of jazz.

“Do the homework. Innovate, articulate, eloquate . . . You can be your own unique voice if you do the homework.”

For information on Swanson’s appearance and other musical events at Peninsula College, visit, find the college’s page on Facebook or phone music professor David Jones at 360-417-6405.


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at

Last modified: April 20. 2014 8:07PM
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