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Etienne Charles’ Island Dreams

A rising trumpet star connects jazz to his Caribbean heritage & more

Etienne Charles

Nobody would call Port of Spain, Trinidad, to Lansing, Mich., a classic path to jazz stardom, but Etienne Charles has turned that journey into an exceptionally rewarding one. He didn’t know a lick of jazz when he came to the States to attend Florida State University and now, at age 30, is an acclaimed jazz trumpeter and jazz faculty member at Michigan State University.

“It is a bit strange, being in Michigan,” Charles said before a benefit performance at Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts, a spiffy new facility near the University of Chicago. “Where I grew up, it’s hot all year. People are always trying to dance there, so the music dances. In Michigan, it’s a bit cold and gray, but being in the Midwest has forced me to grow outside of everything I know, culturally.”

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