Tag Archives: Music Department

TSU Grad Student Seeks Top Spot at Historic Apollo Theater Amateur Night

Darius Salazar, a graduate music student at Tennessee State University, will perform at Amateur Night at the Apollo, September 17 and attempt to become the "Super Top Dog." (photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)
Darius Salazar, a graduate music student at Tennessee State University, will perform at Amateur Night at the Apollo, September 17 and attempt to become the “Super Top Dog.” (photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A graduate music student at Tennessee State University is going to see if he has what it takes to be “Top Dog” when he takes his musical talents to New York and the Apollo Theater.

Darius Salazar, a Chicago native pursuing his graduate work in Music Education, will perform at Amateur Night at the Apollo, Wednesday, Sept. 17 in hopes of making it through four rounds of competition all the way to the Super Top Dog competition in late November. If he makes it that far, he has a shot at the $10,000 cash prize.

“I was very surprised when I was asked to take part in the competition,” said Salazar. “No matter what happens, I think this opportunity can open new musical doors for me.”

A recruiter for the show approached Salazar when he was rehearsing this past summer with the 105 Voices of History All HBCU Jazz Band prior to their performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The recruiter was in the audience and introduced himself to Salazar, and invited him to the competition.

Salazar knows the Apollo is the place where many careers are started and can’t wait for his opportunity on stage. Just the invite, he said, is special.

“It really surprised me, and left me speechless,” added Salazar. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime not many people get.”

Salazar will have three minutes to grab the attention of the notoriously raucous audience at the Harlem Theater. He recently found out he is the first electric bass guitarist to take to the stage, and will perform a selection from Stevie Wonder, another musician whose career was launched at the theater.

With so much at stake, Salazar isn’t taking any chances. He is practicing long hours every day, trying to implement his own style on Stevie Wonder’s Billboard Hot 100 hit, As.

“It’s a great song to perform as an instrumental,” said Salazar. “The odds are pretty tough but I’m going to give it my best.”

Someone who knows about his “best” musical talent is Dr. Robert Elliott, chair of the Music Department, who not only is a bass player like Salazar, but also gave him private lessons for four years during his undergraduate studies at the University.

“Darius is a very talented and gifted musician,” said Elliott. “We are very pleased about his selection and excited about him moving on to the next phase of his musical career.”

No matter what the outcome, Salazar is just happy to showcase his musical talents and represent Tennessee State University.

“This will definitely make my career better and I am honored to be on such a historic show,” he added. “I am just pleased to show what I have.”

Amateur Night at the Apollo celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2009, serving as the model for Star Search and American Idol. When Amateur Night at the Apollo debuted in 1934, it quickly became the leading showcase for many young, talented, new performers such as a 15-year-old Ella Fitzgerald, who went on to become one of the first Amateur Night winners.

Today, competitions are held nearly every Wednesday evening throughout the year, culminating with the “Super Top Dog” competition. The show marries world-class talent with a distinctive, vaudeville-like atmosphere, and has depended on audience participation since the very beginning. The popularity contest has proven an effective measure of star potential, becoming a launch pad for some of the nation’s greatest entertainers.

Many legends have played there over the years — Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, to name but a few — and launched the careers of James Brown, the Jackson 5, Sisqo, D’Angelo, and Lauryn Hill.

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU Music Student’s Career Sets Sail on Smooth Jazz Cruise

Graduate student Jazmin Ghent wins “Opening Act Competition” and opens for Sirius/XM Hall of Fame concert    

 

Jazmin Ghent
Jazmin Ghent (courtesy photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The musical ship for one Tennessee State University student has set sail and is on course to take her to destinations unknown where she will have the opportunity to be a positive role model for young musicians and help define jazz music for years to come.

Jazmin Ghent, a graduate student studying music education at the University, was recently the winner of the Smooth Jazz Cruise 2014 “Opening Act Competition,” beating out 22 other contestants for the right to perform on the final night of the cruise in front of a packed house, and to interact with some of her musical idols, including jazz icons Brian Culbertson, Boney James and David Sanborn.

“The experience was life changing,” said the Huntsville, Ala., native. “I was able to interact and speak with many artists who I grew up listening to and admire.  I had a lesson with Kirk Whalum, and personally interacted with Peter White, Keiko Matsui, Marcus Miller, Candy Dulfer and Mindi Abair to name a few. It is something I will never forget.”

Born in Heidleberg, Germany and raised in Huntsville, Ghent grew up around music and began taking piano lessons at the age of 5. She became the Sunday school pianist at only 8 years old and often practiced with the adult musicians and church choir members. After being introduced to the saxophone in middle school, she progressed to becoming the church pianist and saxophonist. “Once I was in high school, I discovered my passion for performing and teaching,” she said. “I also began playing professionally in the Huntsville area.”

After high school and a long list of awards including the NAACP’s ACT-SO award, she received a full scholarship to Florida State University where she majored in instrumental music education and jazz studies. After graduation, Ghent’s parents gave her the cruise on the high seas as a gift that would send her competing against other musicians vying for the top spot in an “American Idol” type competition.

“My parents had been on this cruise before and told me about the competition,” Ghent said. “I’ve always loved jazz from a very young age and thought this was a great opportunity.”

Once onboard the “Greatest Party at Sea,” Ghent had to initially compete against 22 other contestants who played everything from saxophone, piano, drums, and trumpet, as well as vocalists. She concedes that it was a bit nerve-racking the first round since the audience was voting on the 12 that would move forward, but even worse during the second round.

“Not only was the audience voting in the second round, but also jazz greats Brian Culbertson, Boney James and Marcus Miller,” she added. “My stress level was extremely high during that round because now I was playing for the very icons I had grown up listening to. The nice thing was that everyone was very supportive and encouraging.”

Ghent won the competition and the right to play the final night for the Sirius/XM Jazz Hall of Fame concert in front of more than 1,900 fans. Nervous, she spoke with Culbertson who told her to have fun and enjoy herself.

“After his encouraging words, I felt more comfortable playing and the nervousness turned into pure excitement,” she said.

After being introduced by both Culbertson and James, she belted our her rendition of “Summertime” composed by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. Receiving a standing ovation, James commented that he predicts Ghent has a big future in the music business. He should know since he has four gold albums, four GRAMMY nominations, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and a Soul Train Music Award to his name, and sales totaling more than three million records.

“Wasn’t that awesome,” James told the audience. “That was very soulful. It is heartwarming to see a young person like that to get up here and play with such passion.”

Culbertson agreed with James, uttering a resounding, “Wow!”

“Jazz is not going away,” he commented. “Seeing people play like that…she is keeping it alive and that is a beautiful thing.”

Dr. Robert Elliott, head of the Music Department, agrees with both, and said that TSU has a history of producing jazz greats.

“Jazz, America’s art form, has been an important part of TSU since President Walter Davis recruited students to form the TSU Collegians,” said Elliott. “That group produced great jazz musicians such as Jimmy Blanton, who became Duke Ellington’s bass player, Hank Crawford, the music director for Ray Charles, and many others who went on to influence America’s music. Jazmin continues the record of excellence in performance that has come to be expected of TSU music students and we couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Now that the competition is over, Ghent plans to focus on completing her master’s degree at TSU, as well as continue to compose, record and perform new material.

“I would like to perform and teach on a collegiate level,” added Ghent. “I am very passionate about the future of music and the future of Jazz. I want to make sure I am a positive role model for young musicians.”

 

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

 

About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.