A native of both northeasten Massachusetts and Metropolitan New York, Anita attended The Pingree School in South Hamilton, MA and later graduated from Andover High School, Andover, MA. Although the family moved to Long Island September 1977, she maintained strong ties with the New England area by the sea which she had called home for so long, enjoying the privilege of being awakened by the lobster trawlers' engines at dawn, just outside her bedroom window, on the southern Gulf of Maine coastline.
In fall of 1977 she began studying with legendary jazz artist, Lennie Tristano. Her lessons mainly required her to sing with the recordings of Billie Holiday,accurately imitating Billie's phrasing and inflections. This led into singing the tenor sax solos of Lester "Prez" Young, striving for accuracy with his melodic choices, phrasing and vocal character.
In 1978 Brown enrolled as a freshman at SUNY Old Westbury while living in Sea Cliff, NY. She majored in Music Education while also studying photography and African dance and choreography via the Katherine Dunham technique through the school's exemplary dance program.
As a transfer student she began her third year of school in 1980 at University of New Hampshire in Durham. There, as a Music Education Major with a piano/vocal concentration she studied classical piano and voice. While studying orchestration with Dr. Mark DeVoto she was introduced to calligraphy part copying, which later became a most useful skill.
Upon her introduction to instrumental conducting with Stanley D. Hettinger, Director of Bands, Anita experienced a personal renaissance, thereby proclaiming herself a conducting major in a school which offered no such major.
Nearing the close of her third year of college she decided she needed to study conducting to a greater extent and prepare herself to become an instrumental band director and conductor, remaining at UNH for a total of four years.
Through a number of independent studies Anita's undergraduate transcripts from UNH reflect eight semeseters worth of study in both instrumental and choral conducting and score study.
Her desire to succeed in her instrumental methods classes drove her to put in an inordinate amount of practice time on the Bb Clarinet, in particular. This rather amusing anecdote has Anita looking to her close friend and classmate, Maggie Donaghue (now Professor of Clarinet, University of Miami) for help in figuring out why she was sqeaking so much. All consulted looked at the instrument and said, "You're doing everything right. Just put the time in the woodshed." So she continued practicing diligently.
Upon successfully executing the First Rose Etude and the requisite number of scales for her playing final without sqeaks, she was rewarded with quite a good grade by TA, Janice Brown. At this juncture, upon surrendering her instrument, Janice looked closely at the mouthpiece and reed and asked, "Have you been playing on this reed all semester?"
"Yes," replied Anita.
"Who gave you this reed?"
"Dave Seiler." (Director of Jazz Studies and Professor of Clarinet.)
Janice reiterated her question, for which the answer remained the same. Janice then revealed to Anita that she had in fact erroneously been issued a reed for Eb Sopranino Clarinet with which to learn to play the Bb Clarinet. Not the best recipe for success! Success and facing her fear of the mystery of brass instruments came later.
Anita's career in Music Education began with a part time band directorship while she was in her third year at UNH. This position was used as an additional practicum for her advanced conducting studies. Upon embarking on her career she eventually moved back to New York.
While teaching at a small private school she enrolled in graduate school at Herbert H. Lehman College in The Bronx. There she secured an independent study in arranging for big band with Dr. Lyn Christie. It was during this time that she learned to face the mysterious brass instruments! It seemed like a good time, as she had been observing the necessary musculature as pertains to "brass chops" with great fascination.
Upon a general inquiry with two of her friends, Tony Kadleck gave her a trumpet and Greg Gisbert gave her a Bach 7C mouthpiece and dictated the overtone series to her. She proceded to stand for hours in her walk-in closet blowing long tones and figuring the beast out on her own, with an occasional telephone lesson with one of the two aforementioned masters of the trumpet. Upon time to register for the Brass Methods class at Lehman College she was prepared to take on the role of "Lead Trumpet" for the first and last time in her career. However, she continues to play, write and teach with the very same equipment these two dear friends bestowed upon her. And with that, the fear of brass has turned into an obsession to hear more brass, more layers of brass, more moving brass lines and more high notes.
"I feel the lead trumpet is like the headlight at the front of the train, illuminating the way for the rest of the band."
Following an extensive career in Music Education, Anita made her way to the prestigious BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop in 1995, embarking upon her calling as a composer. There she began building a body of work for jazz orchestra under the guidance of Jim McNeely, Manny Albam and Mike Abene. As a contributing composer featured in the workshop’s annual concerts through 2003, she was a finalist in its 2001 and 2003 Charlie Parker Composition Competitions.
In 2000 she founded Anita Brown Jazz Orchestra, independently recording and releasing her debut CD 27 EAST in 2003. Brown served as conductor, contractor and executive producer of this recording which features seven of her original compositions. Since its release it has received critical acclaim and appeared in six categories on the ballot for the 46th Grammy Awards.
In March 2006 Ms. Brown became the first recipient of the ASCAP/International Jazz Composers’ Symposium New Music Award for Big Band Works for her piece entitled "The Lighthouse" which was bestowed in conjunction with The Center for Jazz Composition at USF Tampa. As one of six finalists from a pool of over one hundred applicants, her piece was selected by three of the jazz community’s most highly regarded composers: Bob Brookmeyer, John Clayton and Dave Douglas.
Brown has written arrangements for Nnenna Freelon with The Count Basie Orchestra, Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, Chuck Owen and The Jazz Surge for the Gala Opening of The Center for Jazz Composition at USF Tampa, Roseanna Vitro with The NJ Performing Arts Center Faculty, Bobby Short and a number of New York R&B bands. In addition to her own band, her original works have been performed by The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, The U.S. Army’s Jazz Ambassadors, BMI New York Jazz Orchestra and many college and high school jazz ensembles. She has also appeared as guest lecturer/clinician with The Jazz Knights of West Point Military Academy, The International Jazz Composers’ Symposium, several university jazz programs and appeared both as a clinician and in performance with her jazz orchestra at the 34th Annual IAJE Conference held in New York, January 10-13, 2007.
In September 2007 she joined the faculty of New Jersey City University (Jersey City, NJ) and Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, NY), offering graduate and undergraduate studies in jazz composition and arranging, respectively.
Brown has served as a consultant in planning and/or producing a number of recordings and performances in addition to her own.
She maintains her relationship with Music Education through her Composer Residency Project. This flexible, supplementary curriculum was designed to bring young musicians through the process of composition under her guidance while introducing the basics of ñintellectual property rights and their significance.
Throughout her career she has also served as copyist and/or assistant to Jim McNeely, Maria Schneider, Manny Albam, Don Sebesky, John Pizzarelli, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band. She has also served as archivist for The Estate of Gil Evans and as Primary Librarian for The Estate of Manny Albam.
With life-long hobbies in photography and drawing, Anita has photographed the cover for Sheila Jordan's "One For Junior," provided session photography for Dave Pietro's "Embrace" and drew the logo for this web site in her favorite medium of oil crayons. It was inspired by a photo shot by Krista Wortendyke which appears in the insert for "27 EAST."
Anita Brown Jazz Orchestra made its debut at The Cutting Room in New York City in August 2000. While there is a set team of players there is also a long list of wonderful musicians who have assisted me in molding my music over time. These musicians are quite literally New York's finest players and are responsible for making the Broadway music scene, film sountracks, commercial jingles and the New York jazz scene what it is today.
Each player who is cited here has been asked to provide only five or six of their favorite credits from their long lists of accomplishments. Please feel free to contact them through the contact information provided.
Each of them, accomplished artists in their own rights, has shown themselves to be of fine character, intelligence and fortitude. Each has been more than a player in my band; each has been a true friend. At times, some have literally come to my defense in less than congenial performance venues or scenarios. I am grateful and elated to see their faces when I stand before them in rehearsals and performance.
While it is true that I have a strong concept of sound and blend which dictates my calls out to players and subs, the subsequent requirement is that they bring a sense of humor to the band stand. It is for this reason we always have fun when we play together, even if there are plenty of reasons not to, off the band stand. These men and women are true artists who seem to understand, collectively and individually, what it is I am trying to convey with my paper and ink, for the printed page we call "music" is merely a representation of sound. It is the life-long dedication of these players to this art form which affords me, one composer of many, the opportunity to bring my music to life.
This listing is still incomplete. Please check back from time to time to see additions.