- Category: Arts & Entertainment
- Created on 18 December 2018
- Written by Beverly Hill Shelley
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Marion Meadows is a phenomenal soprano jazz saxophonist originally from West Virginia. He was raised in Stamford, Connecticut.
By the age of nine he was playing the clarinet and studying classical music. As a teen, Meadows moved from playing the tenor saxophone to the soprano sax. His mentors were Norman Connors, Eddie Daniels, Sonny Fortune and Grover Washington. Meadows majored in arranging and composition while in attendance at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He shares, “As musicians, we provide an outlet for people to be emotional and to see the world through our eyes, through our experiences. There may be very little reward monetarily, but the rewards are so spiritual and enlightening. That's the way it’s been pretty much of my life. I'm so happy I chose this. Even if I never made a dime, I still would have felt the same way about my choice.”
In the late 80’s, an impromptu encounter happened while Meadows was waiting for a train in New York’s Grand Central Station. He decided to take his horn out and began to play. The melodic sounds caught the ear of another traveler passing by. This traveler happened to be producer and TV composer Jay Chattaway who was so blown away that he introduced Meadows to legendary keyboardist, Bob James. He and James did collaborate on a recording. It was never released but lead Meadows on the road to much success.
Meadows says, "I got a lot of sideman jobs in college, and I have always said I got my real graduate degree playing clubs.” I learned that a sideman is a professional musician who is hired to perform or record with a group for which he or she is not a regular member. Meadows became a well known sideman, recording or performing over the years with Eartha Kitt, Phyllis Hyman, The Temptations, Michael Bolton, Angela Bofill and Will Downing just to name a few. Being a sideman with jazz drummer, composer and producer Norman Connors for three years, Meadows had no thought of going solo. He continues, “Not long after I finished school, Connors recorded one of my songs Invitation, and then he asked me to join his band.” Later Meadows produced Connors’ Passion album with colleague Jacques Burvick from the music group, Aquarium Dream. Meadows solo debut album was For Lover’s Only which was released in 1990 by RCA and was an huge success!Following this debut, he released Keep It Right There, Forbidden Fruit, Body Rhythm, Pleasure, Another Side of Midnight, Next To You, In Deep and many more.
In 2016, Wilberforce University (Wilberforce, Ohio) recognized Meadows for his music history research. He introduced a compilation of musical references that connects the dots of modern day American music history. Meadows expressed that he wanted educators to expand this knowledge so that the next generation can see the big picture of how it is all tied together. Aside from teaching origin, he also teaches the influences of each type, style and genre. He says, “For our children, American music history is getting lost, fading out, and I have to make sure it never is forgotten.”
A monumental event in Meadow’s life was a recent performance at the Cape Town Jazz Festival in South Africa! He shared, “We played with Hugh Masekela. He did a chant; it was the freedom song for South Africa, the one they wrote for Nelson Mandela. There was a sea of 45,000 people all bawling including me. I was so overwhelmed that I cried uncontrollably.” Meadows continues, “To see all these people, twenty years since their freedom, finally together crying and singing this freedom song was awesome! It was not just Zulus. It was Indian people, White people…everybody! They had lived through the apartheid struggle and were exhibiting the tears of people trying to move humanity forward! I had never experienced anything like this. This was so touching. If I never play another note, if I never play music again…after experiencing this, I would be just fine.”
Committing to being a full-time musician can have a total effect on your personal life. Meadows says, “You must be ready to go at anytime. You may have a tour around the world for six months, and you’ve got to go. That's what you bought into and sometimes your family suffers. We are messengers sending out a message, and we’re hoping that people resonate with that message. Our goal is to help KEEP humanity moving forward. To be the partner of a musician is not for everybody, because we are sometimes misunderstood. As a couple, if you're truly spiritually vested it will work out. I would not do anything differently; everything is as it is supposed to be.”
Meadows doesn’t have any advice for young people coming into the music business. He says, “They’re going to find their way anyway if they have the talent and the drive and if this is something they really want to do.” The only advice he has is general and will work in music or in business. He adds, “Whatever you do, just do it with integrity. Be kind, bring love through the door and you'll get love back, and also leave the door with love. I'm proud of the musicians and artists around the planet, those people in the Arts that have made a true contribution to moving our people forward. My friends that I'm around are the loveliest people I know. They are wonderful, wonderful people…they hug, and they're sincere, that's the only kind of people I want to know.” Oh course by now I chimed in, "And now you’ve got another lovely person to know…ME!!" We both laughed. He left us with these words of wisdom, “The only thing you have in your whole life is your integrity.”