My name is Adrianna Sewell but most just call me Bebe. I am an 11th grade student at Cass Tech High School, 17 years old, and have been playing jazz violin for 6 years now. I have been playing since I was 5 years old, classically trained. I started in Suzuki books, (the stepping-stone for classical violin). Then I was a part of the Wayne State Community Strings and from there, I went on to be a part of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s (DSO) Civic Youth Ensembles (CYE) for 8 years now. The first time I got there, I got humbled. The first lesson I learned just being in the auditioning room to enter the program, was that pride comes before a fall. By mercy, I have learned and grown from that. In growing, I was able to be a part of each of their levels: first one being pizzicato, (their first level); arco, sinfonia, concert, and philharmonic. Whether I was in the back of the orchestra or concert master, I was learning so many things with each conductor that I was under.
A few years later, I finally decided that I wanted to try out jazz violin. I joined the Carr Center Summer Jazz Camp and learned from local Detroit jazz musicians. After I had gotten an idea of what jazz violin was like, I joined the Civic Youth Creative Jazz Ensemble at the DSO, under the direction of Darrell Campbell, (Mr. Red). I was doing both classical and jazz simultaneously. Because of this, it had opened a new perspective to me on how I could play. Once the program was finished for the year, I started taking gigs around the city. One was when I participated with the Carr Center in a collaboration between Wayne State’s Mobile Arts Program and the Detroit Recreation Department during the summers, (that was long). It was only a few of us playing, but it was a lot of fun going to different rec centers and playing while the kids did art projects or just watched. Another time was when I was with the jazz ensemble with the DSO, we got to open for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s professional concert at the Ford House in Grosse Point. We also played at Governor Whitmer’s inauguration ball. And a few other places. I have also participated in Master classes representing the Carr Center. It was the Terrance Blanchard Master Workshop at “The Box” at the DSO. Another one when I wasn’t representing the Carr Center was when I participated in a masterclass with Regina Carter.
Fast forward a few years, I am still with the Civic Youth Program at the DSO, both classical and jazz, but have been trying new things. For instance, I have done Interlochen Summer Camp Virtually; quite the experience. It was my first time doing their camp, and from them I have been blessed with a Private Tutor that was an instructor there. Dr. Clara Kim; she has taught me so much and I am very grateful to be growing with her teachings. I have been trying to put myself out there and have been a part of some writing contests as well. The first one was through the America Library of Poetry. I didn’t win, but I had the amazing opportunity of having my poem published. The second one was this year and was through the Carr Center. Again, I didn’t win, but I have the honor being a part of their honorable mention exhibit. I have also gotten into the art of pointillism, (pictures sketched or made with dots). With all of these things, I have really been trying to expand my horizons and explore how each thing could make me a better thinker and artist.
But back to the music.
Growing up, I only knew about one jazz violinist, Jean Luc Ponte. My dad listened to him all the time. As a four-year-old, Ponte was the only one, at the time, that I actually knew could make a different sound with the violin that sounded nothing like classical. I also listened to a lot of Pat Metheny. Of course, you had the classics like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and so many others, but Ponte and Metheny, they were the people that I first heard it from. Jazz in the “modern” way. The way I fell in love with it first. Now I try to listen to everybody: Whether it be Ponte, Esperanza Spalding, Electric Light Orchestra, Blossom Dearie, Nina Simone, Al Jarreau, Joao Gilberto, Tears for Fears, I could go on and on. A part of my playlist also consists of cartoon soundtracks and animated scores; the cartoons and movies are where it’s at. The point is, I want to pull from as much as I can from as many people or things that I can. To expand my horizons, find myself in the arts, and become a better musician. By the grace of the Lord, I have made it this far, and am ready for all the opportunities he has for me. I hope to act as one of his servants and representatives, and be a representative to the future rising musicians.
Enjoy BeBe Sewell and the B Side as they perform live for the BLAC® Summer Jazz Series