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Mary Halvorson: Leading by Example

Video interview with the composer, guitarist and bandleader taped at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival

When guitarist Mary Halvorson was a college student at Wesleyan University, she went on a road trip with a group of fellow students to Newport to attend the Newport Jazz Festival. They camped in the rain, waited in line for the best seats and took in the whole festival experience. Halvorson has not forgotten that trip. When she returned to Newport in 2013 to perform at the festival with her septet, she recounted the tale-in a video interview taped backstage-of herself as a rain-soaked traveler and jazz fan.

In this interview from the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival, the guitar, composer and bandleader also talks about her early musical education and development, including her first musical instrument and first paid gig. She talks about what she has learned from Anthony Braxton, a mentor with whom she studied and performed while attending Wesleyan University. And Halvorson explains how and why she juggles so many different bands and projects, as well as what she has learned from various bandleaders she’s worked with.

During the festival, JazzTimes set up a make-shift video production studio backstage inside the old barracks of Fort Adams. During two afternoons, a succession of artists-including Michel Camilo, Gregory Porter, Derrick Hodge, Dee Alexander, Aaron Goldberg and several others-came in to talk about the festival, jazz education and their own projects. We have been posting these interviews at You can also see more of these video interviews from the Newport Jazz Festival (in 2011, 2012 and 2013), as well as from the Jazz Cruise, at the JazzTimes YouTube channel.

Mary Halvorson on her early music education and development, as well as on her first paid gig and the first jazz shows she was inspired by:

Mary Halvorson on Anthony Braxton, as teacher, mentor and bandleader:

Mary Halvorson on juggling different bands and projects, and on performing at Newport:

Video by Melissa Mergner. Audio by Jen Kim.

Originally Published