Quamon Fowler was the 2001 VSA Young Soloist, and this award jump-started him on his life journey. But not as the gifted musician he has become, because that journey was already well underway. He was a student of Alvin Batiste at Southern University in Baton Rouge in 2001, where he produced his first CD at age 19. He performed with Batiste at the New Orleans Jazz Festival throughout his entire undergraduate career. But at the 2001 Young Soloist concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, he re-connected with a high school friend who was to later become his wife. His family, Ayanna and their two children Quamon, Jr and Alexia, are the center of his life. And music surrounds this family with love and life.
Quamon decided when he was a young boy watching Sesame Street that the saxophone was it! There was a segment that showed the making of a saxophone, the keys and how it sounded. He remembers thinking, “Whatever that is, I want to do that.” That happened again when he heard the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) at a NAMM Music Convention. Now, he plays the EWI with its wide piano range, as well as the saxophone, because the EWI diversifies “my musical voice.” After the Sesame Street experience, his family started him on the violin, but as soon as he got to the seventh grade, it was saxophone all the time.
Following the 2001 Kennedy Center performance, Quamon was invited to work with Billy Taylor and the “Jazz in the New Generation” program. This opportunity pushed him in a way that Southern had not. As a visually impaired musician, reading music can be a challenge. Batiste taught him how to listen to music and develop his own way to commit this music to memory. He believes that he was liberated from the notes on the page, which allowed him to obtain a “more organic authenticity.” Playing with the Billy Taylor project required Quamon to play in a big band situation, where studio sessions can be challenging. He reads music, but the accommodation of enlarging scores and all that entails, found him working many hours of memorization. He said that what he learned was that he is not really your typical saxophone player. That he has a unique approach to listening and playing. Batiste showed him how to listen carefully, to separate what he was hearing into what he should play. His suggestion to new musicians: “Learn music like you are blind. Internalize it. Put your soul into it. Memorize what you hear and pay less attention to the notes on the page.”
Quamon is a natural teacher, teaching at Southwestern Theological Seminary, as well as online through JazzWebShed. He is a Christian, which has guided his decisions for his entire life. As a young boy, he was introduced to his love of music in church. The guiding force to his ownership of his blindness and his journey to becoming the man and musician he is today is the wisdom of Paul in 2nd Corinthians 12, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” One example is this story: In 2009 his saxophone was stolen. He received support and donations from across the country, and Branford Marsalis gifted him with a Mark 6. He played that saxophone until it was stolen in 2011. Quamon and Ayanna prayed, and Quamon also distributed a photo to the kids in the neighborhood. A few days later, the saxophone was found leaning against their front door. It was a bit damaged, so Tenor Madness (a saxophone maker) and Texas Music Educators Association, repaired it but also gifted him with a new saxophone, that he continues to play today. And yes, they moved!
There is so much more to Quamon than I can fit on this page. Since that momentous event in 2001, Quamon has been a good friend to Art Spark Texas, and we look forward to many more years of musical collaboration. We are proud to have Quamon Fowler as the Art Spark Texas Artist of the Month for April 2019.
Art Spark Texas