Dawn Clement Photo by Daniel Sheehan
By Paul Rauch
Pianist, composer, and educator Dawn Clement, a major force on the Seattle jazz scene for nearly two decades, has accepted a teaching position at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado, and will be moving there over the course of the summer. She leaves a legacy of recording, live performances, and mentorship in Seattle that has launched an impressive international profile in the jazz world.
Clement came to Seattle to attend Cornish College of the Arts, and immediately began teaching piano there upon graduation in 2000. Her prodigious talents have found her on the road and in the studio with such jazz luminaries as Julian Priester, Matt Wilson, Jane Ira Bloom, and Ingrid Jensen. Clement’s compositional prowess has produced works that range from jazz quintet, to string quartet and voice. Her most recent recording, Tandem (Origin, 2018), is a collection of duo performances with her closest musical collaborators, including Mark Taylor, Johnaye Kendrick, Matt Wilson, and Julian Priester.
Clement has won three Earshot Jazz Golden Ear Awards, and was the Resident Artist at the 2017 Earshot Jazz Festival. Her impactful presence as a musician, mentor, and educator will be sorely missed in Seattle. She was kind enough to share her thoughts on her 18 years here, and what lies ahead on her new life adventure.
As you reflect on the past 18 years as an educator and performer, what are some of your favorite memories of your time spent here in Seattle?
In general, the most important memories I have are the opportunities I’ve had to make music with teachers, and vice versa, to make music with students. This is what I live for! It has been extremely gratifying to see my peers and students reach success not only as musicians, but in other career paths. To get more specific, and in no particular order, I’ll answer as a student, educator, and performer.
- Seeing Ray Brown three times, Elvin Jones twice, and Max Roach once at Jazz Alley, all on Wednesday nights on my student discount!
- Playing in Denny Goodhew’s Free Ensemble.
- Playing my first duo gig, and my first gig ever with Mark Taylor down at the OK Hotel.
- Joining Jane Ira Bloom’s band for the first time in concert in the early 2000s.
- Playing with Pharaoh Sanders at Jazz Alley.
- Playing “Naima” with Hadley (Caliman), and Julian (Priester).
- The day Johnaye Kendrick was hired at Cornish.
- That night at the Owl ‘n Thistle when I played “I Hear a Rhapsody” with Roy Hargrove.
- Playing with a string quartet at Benaroya Hall.
- Hearing my students tear it up at Hot Java Cool Jazz at the Paramount.
- Playing at church with the amazing Eric Likkel on clarinet.
- Playing trio with Chuck Deardorf and Matt Wilson.
- Hearing the sound of Michael’s voice answering the phone at Tula’s: “Helloooooo, Tulaaaaaaa’s.”
- Spending my twenty-first birthday listening to Dave Peck at Tula’s.
- The handful of lessons I was fortunate to have with Jerome Gray, where he called me on all my BS, taught me some beautiful tunes, and introduced me to the world of fractals, and intervals!
You have been in a position as a performer and educator, to spend time with, and perform with some of the great musicians in the history of this city. You have as well seen the rise of many great young musicians, as they integrate themselves into the fabric of Seattle jazz. Where do you see the jazz scene in the Pacific Northwest moving forward over the next decade?
I honestly don’t know if I’m qualified to say. Over the past few years, I have readily admitted to not knowing everything that is happening on the scene and that’s a good thing. There are so many good musicians coming out of the woodwork, moving into town, starting new projects, developing their craft, many of whom are not on my radar. It’s easy to get too bogged down in doing your own thing. I would hope to see the community continue to develop, and musicians continue to support and lift one another up. In all the places that I’ve been, and players I’ve heard, I can honestly say Seattle has some of the richest, and the best, in fearless and unique artists and music makers. I’m proud to be a part of this community!
As part of a new community in Denver, you will be teaching at Metropolitan State University, and introducing yourself to the jazz community there as well. What truly excites you about these new opportunities for both you and your family?
I think I am most excited to work with the students at MSU, and to bring what I have to the Jazz and American Improvised Program. I am also looking forward to joining a stellar faculty, and learn from them, including the beautiful and generous Ron Miles. Our family is especially looking forward to a new definition of stability. I can honestly say I am very excited to be dropping in on a new community and all that it presents in the way of networking, meeting and playing with new people, welcoming the music in different ways, growing and honing in on my craft, and sharing the experience with others. I’d like to think that all the collaborations and relationships I’ve made so far that have shaped and contributed to the person I am will continue. I hope to successfully be able to bring the music world even closer in a personal and national way.
The idea of moving is still growing on my family, especially my oldest son. Not only will I miss the music community here, but we as a family will miss our neighborhood, our Little League team, our elementary school, and the families we’ve been fortunate to have in our lives. Many of our extended relatives are in the area as well, so it will be hard to fathom we aren’t just a drive away. I’ve never been more thankful for FaceTime in my life!
Your new position is a great opportunity for you and your family. However, there is a touch of sadness in the community to see you go, as you are well respected, and more importantly, well loved here. Is there anything you’d like to say to the jazz community at large as you embark on this new adventure?
Thank you! I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart for raising me, befriending me, applauding me, supporting me, including me, encouraging me, inspiring me, and blowing my mind in so many ways. Seattle will always be home! Keep in touch, and keep it classy!
First Light: Happy Birthday and Bon Voyage to Dawn Clement
Wednesday, August 1, 8pm
The Royal Room
A beloved member of Seattle’s jazz community for over 20 years, Dawn Clement is leaving us! She also turns 40 this year, which is cause for a party! Join friends and family in celebrating Dawn with a night of music at the Royal Room. With Special Guests: Tarik Abouzied, Igor Abuladze, John Bishop, Ryan Burns, Geoff Cooke, Geoff Harper, Wayne Horvitz, Johnaye Kendrick, D’Vonne Lewis, Thomas Marriott, Jose Martinez, Kate Olson, Chris Symer, Mark Taylor, Hans Teuber, Byron Vannoy, Eric Verlinde.
Free and open to the public. The Royal Room is all ages until 10pm. More information at www.theroyalroomseattle.com.