When she was all of 12 years old, Mariel Austin witnessed the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble performing Charles Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus” and knew instantly where her life was headed. “I was just so moved by it, so stricken,” she says. The power of the big band, and the myriad possibilities inherent in its instrumentation, affected her in a big way.
Specifically, one instrument had her name on it. “I pretty much just pointed to the trombone and said, ‘I want that.’ It was the slide,” she says. “It’s just so unique—other than the slide whistle, which is pretty much a toy.”