Mikayla Gilbreath

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About Mikayla Gilbreath


In May 2007, at age 14 and with less than two years experience playing saxophone, Mikayla Gilbreath successfully auditioned for membership in the nationally-recognized Deer Valley Performance Jazz Ensemble. During her first year with the band, Mikayla was the only female in the seventeen member horn section. As one might expect, the "new girl" didn't get many opportunities to solo at first. But before the end of her first year, Gilbreath was named Lead Alto Saxophonist and now enjoys many more opportunities to solo with the band. The DV Performance Jazz Ensemble is widely considered to be one of the best high school jazz bands in America, so Mikayla is genuinely proud to perform with this talented group of young musicians. Mikayla also plays flute, soprano sax ,and clarinet for the band.

Gilbreath's passion for jazz grew from her exposure to the music of Sonny Rollins. In November 2006, she had the great honor of meeting Mr. Rollins and playing her music for him. She admits that having Sonny listen to her play was one of the most terrifying moments of her life! By merely showing an interest in Gilbreath and her music, this legendary jazz musician has created many opportunities for Mikayla and has instilled in her a genuine desire for personal achievement.

Since March 2007, Mikayla has been featured on SonnyRollins.com as part of "Meeting Sonny - The Sonny Rollins Podcast - Episode 3."

In April 2007, Mikayla was interviewed on National Public Radio as part of Jazz Journalists Association President Howard Mandel's interview with Sonny Rollins entitled "Saxophonist Sonny Rollins Still Swinging Strong." Gilbreath is particularly pleased to note that Mr. Rollins is referred to as her “mentor” in that piece.

And in the September 2007 issue of JazzTimes Magazine, Mikayla was featured in Nat Hentoff's article entitled "Bridging Generations," a piece which also deals with Sonny Rollins. Then In June 2010, Nat Hentoff published his book "At The Jazz Band Ball" which includes a chapter featuring Mikayla.

On September 18th, 2007, Mikayla (14) and her sister Briana (12) hosted a pre-concert reception in Carnegie Hall's Shorin Club Room, just prior to Sonny Rollins' 50th Anniversary Carnegie Hall concert. Among those who attended the event were David Liebman, Jimmy Heath, Joe Lovano, Paquito D'Rivera, Lou Donaldson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Marion Meadows, Brenda Feliciano, and Jazz Journalists Association President Howard Mandel. Afterward, their guests joined the Gilbreath girls for the concert. At the conclusion of Sonny's remarkable performance, the group went backstage where they congratulated Sonny and visited with a number of other jazz artists including Roy Haynes, Christian McBride, Bob Cranshaw, Yusef Lateef, and Billy Taylor. It was a spectacular evening that the Gilbreath family will never forget.

Saxophonist Candy Dulfer has also played a crucial role in introducing Mikayla to jazz. Early on, Dulfer's music caught Gilbreath's attention and now Candy's influence is reflected somewhat in Mikayla's own playing style. But it is Dulfer's demonstrated success in a field dominated primarily by male performers that perhaps inspires Mikayla most, as she strives to reach her own goals. Candy's friendship and encouragement have given Mikayla the confidence to continue reaching higher.

In addition to playing jazz, Gilbreath is also very interested in writing about it. After high school, Mikayla is considering attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. In February 2007, Gilbreath had the distinct honor of meeting Mr. Cronkite, who was perhaps the most respected journalist of all time.

Howard Mandel, President of the Jazz Journalists Association, has been an unwavering source of encouragement to Gilbreath as a young writer. Without Mandel's assistance, becoming a journalist would still be merely a dream for Mikayla. Mandel arranged for publication of Mikayla's first article in Jazz Notes, the Journal of the Jazz Journalists Association, in September 2007. The piece was entitled "Why Would I Choose Anything Else." Gilbreath is currently the youngest member of the Jazz Journalists Association - and she hopes that she is fortunate enough to one day become the oldest!

Gilbreath is also the youngest contributor to AllAboutJazz.com, where she writes a column entitled “Mikayla's Totally Jazzed." The following articles written by Mikayla have all hit #1 on All About Jazz:

~ "Russel Blake: Transcending Expectations" published March 17, 2009. This article is now the #1 "All-Time Most Recommended" article on AllAboutJazz.com.

~ "Candy Dulfer: Prodigy Turned Pro" published December 17, 2008. This article was featured on the home page at AllAboutJazz.com.

~ "Nick Colionne: Making a Difference for the Future" published November 19, 2008.

In August 2008, at age 15, Mikayla was admitted to Glendale College where she presently studies Saxophone, Jazz Improvisation, and Psychology.

In March 2009, Mikayla (age 15) became the youngest person in history to write liner notes for a jazz album, with the release of Australian Ray Vanderby's CD "Orange Not Blue."

And on June 14, 2010, Mikayla hosted the 2010 JJA Jazz Awards - Phoenix Satellite Event.


SONNY ROLLINS applauded and exclaimed "ALRIGHT! Very good. BRAVO! Very fine! ...Wow, that's good. She's got talent! She's got talent!"

CANDY DULFER called Mikayla "supertalented" and told her "You're better than I was at your age!"

BENNY GOLSON remarked "She just might be on the road to becoming famous. I wish her well as she sets out to vigorously ply the future. My compliments."

JIMMY HEATH called Mikayla and her sister Briana "the future of jazz."

DR. LONNIE SMITH also called Mikayla "the future of Jazz" and told her "I'll always be there for you!"

DAVID SANBORN commented "Wow, this girl is on the inside. She really knows what she's talking about!"

SLIDE HAMPTON said "It's an honor to see someone keeping the flame alive. Thank you, Mikayla! Keep up the fantastic work!"

ALPHONSE MOUZON declared "You are awesome! You are extremely talented and intelligent beyond your age! ...Bravo Mikayla on the impeccable interview article you did on me! You are THE BEST!"

NICK COLIONNE stated "Mikayla, you are the best. I am proud of you, keep up the great work."

MARION MEADOWS remarked "That is fantastic!! Incredible for only playing 20 months!"

JOE LOVANO's agent, Tom Korkidis said "Quite impressive for a young saxophonist to improvise at that level after only playing for less than two years!"

KEEP SWINGING jazz blog in the Netherlands labeled Mikayla the "young US Candy Dulfer."


• "'On sonnyrollins.com,' [Jazz Journalists Association President, Howard] Mandel continues, 'You can see Mikayla Gilbreath, a 13-year-old saxophonist from Tempe, Arizona.' On one of the podcasts, Gilbreath, who first heard Sonny’s music in her grade school... is seen meeting Sonny backstage. ...And she tells how she became committed to the jazz life. ...'I heard Sonny Rollins, and I just loved it. I loved the way it sounded and I just -- I wanted to play jazz instead of just music.' ...Mandel asked her if there was anything odd about having been 'drawn to the music of someone whose background is so different from hers.' ...Wisely, the 13-year-old answered, 'You know, I really don’t think it matters. It’s the music that kind of brought us together. It wasn’t the fact that I was white and he was black, or that he was old and I was young. It was just--it was the music that we both loved.'" Nat Hentoff, JazzTimes Magazine, "Bridging Generations," September, 2007.

• "It is remarkable to learn that such a young girl, only 14 years old, who plays the alto saxophone for only two years now, reached such a high level in playing. Only few kids from that age can refer to the great master in jazz, Sonny Rollins, who has said about hearing Mikayla playing... 'Bravo, very nice! She's got talent.'" Hans Koert, Keep Swinging Jazz Blog, in The Netherlands, November 12, 2007. The article went on to label Gilbreath as the "young US 'Candy Dulfer.'" The article is available in both Dutch and English.

• "Mikayla's Totally Jazzed" is a new column that will feature artist interviews and thoughts on jazz by saxophonist/student Mikayla Gilbreath. Despite her young age, she's managed to connect with a surprising number of well-known musicians, hosting a pre-concert reception at Sonny Rollins' 50th Anniversary Carnegie Hall Concert in 2007 that was attended by artists including Jimmy Heath, Lou Donaldson, Paquito D' Rivera, Joe Lovano, David Liebman, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Marion Meadows. At fourteen she's already a confirmed jazz lover and surprisingly accomplished musician, and while one goal of this column is to reach out to youth and help them connect with the music she loves, Mikayla's writing and fresh perspective will appeal to jazz fans of all ages." Managing Editor John Kelman, AllAboutJazz.com, January 7, 2008.

• "Given such an open and welcoming environment, it's no surprise that The Jazz Network has attracted such familiar names as David Benoit, Alex Bugnon, Onaje Allan Gumbs and Lenny White to its member roster, and earned accolades from the likes of fellow members Billy Cobham, Will Downing, Alphonse Mouzon and Buster Williams.
"Yet it's not only established artists who hang out together over this electronic backyard fence [The Jazz Network]. There are plenty of tomorrow's aspiring stars as well, such as 15-year-old jazz saxophonist and journalist Mikayla Gilbreath. 'I heard Sonny Rollins,' she says, explaining her passion, 'and I just loved it. I loved the way it sounded, and I wanted to play jazz instead of just music.' Has anyone of any age ever put it better? Jazz instead of just music." Alan Kurtz, Jazz.com, June 29, 2008.

• "Mikayla Gilbreath, a talented teenage jazz journalist, makes a strong case for the power of mentoring in her profile, "Nick Colionne: Making a Difference for the Future." ...Mikayla Gilbreath may only be 15 but she is already a very good writer and full of wisdom beyond her years. Read her heartwarming profile of Nick Colionne, and her own story, and I’m sure you will agree the future of jazz depends on nurturing an interest in jazz by young people." Madison Jazz, November 29, 2008.


Website: http://MikaylaGilbreath.com

Email: mikayla@mikaylagilbreath.com

Mikayla Gilbreath joined the JazzTimes community on Feb 07, 2010