Creating a life symphony
By Mary Beth Lentner | | No Comments »
Some people might remember a young, burgeoning musical talent playing his trombone at local coffee shops and summer concerts. Others first saw him marching down the Hudson High School football field as a member of the band. But no matter where or when Paul Nowell was first spotted playing his trombone in Hudson, he has been creating his life symphony one note at a time.
Nowell, a 2001 Hudson High School graduate and former Hudson resident, is living out his dream of working in the music industry. Now a San Diego, Calif. resident, Nowell, 26, is a full-time musician who keeps very busy performing with well-known quartets, bands, and other groups throughout California and the United States.
In fact, Nowell has played with famous musicians such as Jimmy Heath, Conrad Herwig, Don Braden, Phil Wilson, Andy Hunter, James Moody, Richie Ray, Lucien Barbarin, Ernie Krivda, Aaron Weinstein, and Dominick Farinacci, to name just at few.
To reach even more music enthusiasts, Nowell paired up with one of the nation’s top vocalists, Leonard Patton, to create a distinctive YouTube series called the Leonard and Paul channel — www.youtube.com/user/LeonardandPaul.
Site guests are treated to the pair’s distinctive trombone and vocal collaboration and can hear a variety of theme songs that the duo wrote for Hollywood celebrities such as Ryan Seacrest and Ellen DeGeneres. In fact, the song that they wrote for Ryan Seacrest was featured on the star’s blog and Web site for several weeks.
So, how did Nowell make his way from elementary school music classes in Hudson all the way to the Hollywood music scene? Well, first and foremost, he says that he never let his love for music diminish and always made time for his musical pursuits.
“I feel that every year that passes, my passion for music gets stronger and deeper. It’s a never-ending cycle. The more I learn about something, the more I find out about what I don’t know and the more I want to know,” Nowell states.
“The more comfortable I get playing the trombone, the more freedom I have. I have learned that music isn’t about showing off how many notes you can play but more about taking the listener on a journey and telling them a story. Human beings love stories.”
Nowell’s own musical story began when he started playing bluegrass music on the banjo at age 8.
“Ever since I can remember, I had a love of music. My first memories are of singing along to Michael Jackson songs. My dad had a huge influence on me because he used to sing and play guitar and banjo to me as a child,” Nowell recalls.
He then progressed to trombone, guitar, bass, drums, and piano. By age 11, Nowell was leading bands in all styles. He attributes much of his early enthusiasm and musical success to the music programs that he was involved in throughout his primary and secondary years within the Hudson Local Schools.
“I had a great time in the Hudson music program, and let me tell you, I have been a clinician for schools all around at various music festivals. Even amongst the best schools at those festivals, I always think to myself that I was so fortunate to go to Hudson. The music program in Hudson is exceptional,” he notes.
“All my Hudson music teachers were great to me. I remember Mrs. Worthing in fifth grade being so nice to me. She helped me choose the trombone. Later on in middle school and high school, I had Mr. Zartman, Mr. Kline, Mr. Iriarte, and Mr. Mauldin. They were all great, and each of them taught me something different.
“Mr. Zartman taught me how to be disciplined, which is extremely important for a musician. The other three guys were so great to me because they called me to play gigs with them at an early age. This was extremely valuable for me to be able to play with professional musicians.
“Mr. Mauldin is an amazing trombonist. I studied privately with him, and he has been one of my biggest influences.”
While participating in the Hudson High School music program, Nowell says that in addition to having dedicated teachers, he was given regular opportunities to play at festivals and special events all over the community.
This, he says, made a significant difference in his ability to gain real-world experience playing to live audiences.
“Hudson is a very nice community to grow up in. I love how the city cultivates and nourishes all of the arts.”
In 2000, Nowell formed his own group called the Paul Nowell Quartet, which he still owns and operates today.
After graduating from Hudson High School, Nowell attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. While there, Nowell says that his typical day consisted of musical practices, classes, ensemble rehearsals, private lessons, clinics, jam sessions with friends, and live concerts during the evening. He would have opportunities to travel to New York City to hear live music on weekends.
He also served as a trombonist in the Boston area for the Phil Wilson’s Rainbow Band; “Dile” Salsa Afro-Cuban Orquesta; Greg Hopkins’ Concert Jazz Orchestra, and Asami Commercial Jingle Company, as well as the Cleveland Salsa All-Stars.
During the spring of 2007, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Trombone Performance.
“My time at Berklee was one of the greatest times in my life. Berklee is the largest international college on the planet, and it is located in the heart of Boston, which I loved. I now have friends from all over the world. My teachers were all famous musicians, whom I grew up listening to,” he adds.
While at Berklee, Nowell says that he got one of his first real breaks into the music industry when film composer Mike Teoli asked him to play trombone for his motion picture After Roberto.
Then, after graduating from Berklee, Nowell says that someone he knew in the trombone community, but had never met, recommended him to join the famous Glenn Miller Orchestra.
While playing with the band, Nowell traveled all over the United States, Canada, and Japan to more than 200 different venues.
“The experience with the band was awesome. There were a lot of one-nighters, and we were in a different city every night. We didn’t rehearse, and we usually played in front of sold-out crowds,” Nowell recalls.
“I remember my first day with the band. I flew into Toronto, and they [band members] picked me up from the airport. We went straight to the gig, and I had to sight-read all the charts on the spot. It was a huge wake-up call. That experience was important to me and forced me to get into that mental state of playing everything right the first time.”
Since touring with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Nowell has participated in a number of musical pursuits, including both teaching and pursuing a Master’s Degree in Music at San Diego State University.
In fact, Nowell says that he became reacquainted with Leonard Patton at San Diego State University, prompting him to start the pair’s collaborative You Tube project.
“I had a dream one night that I needed to create this channel [the YouTube Leonard and Paul channel], and Leonard was the one to help me. The first idea was to write a theme song for Ellen DeGeneres. I called up Leonard the very next day and told him my idea, and he was very excited about it. We wrote, recorded, and filmed the Ellen song in one night after a gig we had together.
One of the pair’s most popular YouTube videos is entitled the Evolution of Song, in which the duo begins by chanting and then evolves into present-day music in just eight minutes. In fact, most of their videos are multi-tracked and feature the two imitating different instruments using simply their own voices and trombone.
Nowell is currently the business manager and bandleader of the TnT New Quintet jazz combo in Cleveland and serves as a music instructor and guest clinician with the El Capitan High School wind and jazz ensembles in California and a brass clinician with San Diego State University’s Big Band.
Nowell also plays trombone for California-based Kalidoskopio Afro-Cuban Band, Benny Hollman Big Band, Bill Caballero Mambo Orchestra, Kicks Band, and the Nate Jarrell Quintet.
Upcoming projects include shows with the Temptations and the Four Tops next month, as well as several jazz gigs and musicals around California.
“The most rewarding moment for me is anytime when people tell me that my music or performance has had a positive effect on them,” Nowell adds.
“My biggest inspiration came from listening to Ernie Krivda’s Fat Tuesday Big band. Those players all inspired me, and I studied under most of them. I began to practice a lot and later on started playing gigs with them. Cleveland has some of the best jazz music in the world.
Nowell says that although he no longer has family living in Hudson, he tries to get back to the city as often as possible to see his many friends. He also has these words of wisdom to young Hudson musicians dreaming of making it big.
“On your principle instruments, make sure that you practice regularly. Everyone wants to sound good when they practice, so they play what they already know. You will never grow that way. If you are practicing right, you will not sound good when you are practicing. Practice what you don’t know, not what you know,” he recommends.
“Learn all your major scales at all tempos and in different patterns. Everything in western music is based on these scales, and there are only twelve of them. Never give up, and be consistent. It may seem like you are not improving, but keep practicing, and in the future, you will notice a huge difference in your playing when you look back. You will be thankful you were consistent in your practice habits.
“Always record yourself, too, so you can listen back from a listener’s perspective. The great Hal Crook told me, ‘Would a photographer study photography without ever developing a picture first?’
“Network with as many people as possible. You can be the best musician in the world, but if no one knows you exist, you will never work. And once you are in the music industry, never make enemies or talk bad about people. Always play the best you can, smile, and be positive.”
Nowell plans to be married to fiancé Nao Hosaka as he continues his musical pursuits. And at the young age of 26, who knows where his musical career will take him next.
To learn more about Nowell’s upcoming projects, visit www.paulnowell.com.
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