On May 13 and 14 2022, the University of Maine enjoyed the residency of jazz composer and trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis for two concerts and a masterclass. She performed a concert – of mostly her own compositions – with the UMaine Jazz Faculty, as well appearing as guest soloist the UMaine Jazz Band and Jazz Ensemble, directed by Dr. Dan Barrett.
In both concerts, Nadje completey charmed both listeners and performers with her uniquely lyrical and positive musical voice. Unknown to me until we met Nadje performs on a Schagerl Penelope B flat trumpet.
Australian-born and living in New York City, Nadje has a varied career. She is a member of the Grammy winning Maria Schneider Orchestra, and has 4 solo albums to her credit. She is also on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, Hunter College, and is a widely sought after private teacher. I interviewed Nadje between events, and over food in Orono, Maine.
Jack Burt: It’s been so nice having you here for your residency at the University of Maine! It’s great to meet you – and I love the music you are playing with our faculty quintet and our two jazz bands. I particularly like your compositions.
NN: Thank you!
JB: Have you always composed, or was it something that developed over time?
NN: I wrote one tune when I was young and taking piano lessons, but then didn’t write again until I was in my early twenties. As part of my undergraduate improvisation degree in Australia I had to regularly write tunes to be performed each week in my ensemble class. It was an amazing assignment – what better way to learn how to do something than to jump right in! I never thought it would be such a major part of my career, but it has ultimately allowed me to develop my own voice. I can’t imagine how I would have been able to develop my own sound without having spent countless hours working on my writing.
JB: You are from Australia, but are based in New York City, what do you when you aren’t a guest soloist? You teach as well, am I right?
NN: I teach a lot – both privately and at Manhattan School of Music. I have been able to live in a couple of different cities during the pandemic as I pivoted to teaching via Zoom in 2020. I find that I am still able to teach effective lessons despite not being physically in the same room. There are certain advantages, such as being able to quickly screenshare etudes or exercises, or to work on improvisation using play-a-longs. I miss living near the water in Australia, even after nineteen years of living in the US, so if I’m not teaching or playing, I’m heading up the road to go for a swim at a local pool.
JB: How did you get started in music, and jazz?
NN: My mother bought an old piano before I was born, and when I was very young I took a liking to it. She kindly enrolled me in piano lessons with a wonderful teacher, and I loved learning and practicing. Her husband played trumpet, so when I was seven, I also began trumpet lessons. It was compulsory for all third graders at my elementary school to play a band instrument. I played in my high school jazz band, but never considered it as a career until I was in college. I saw an all-female jazz group perform at a local pub, and it blew my mind. I never had thought of it as an option before. A couple of years later, I was enrolled in college for improvisation.
JB: I understand you have a new album in the works. Can you tell us about it?
NN: I actually have a few albums in the works at the moment! I just recorded my latest album for Newvelle Records, featuring Fred Hersch, Thomas Morgan and Rudy Royston. That will be out on vinyl in September, and released digitally in December. I’m also working on my next duo record with vibraphonist/synthesist/percussionist James Shipp. We still have a few layers to add, and will be mixing and mastering in the summer. That will be out on my label, Little Mystery Records, at the end of the year. I’m also slowly working on a rock album, which is an exciting new musical direction. I’ve always loved rock and metal music, as well as jazz. That album may take another year or so to complete.
JB: Who knew we both played Schagerl trumpets? How did you get started playing on your horn, the Penelope?
NN: I discovered the Schagerl Penelope trumpet at the International Trumpet Guild conference in Sydney in 2010. I had been looking for a new horn since my old one had been damaged in a chemical bath cleaning incident. I hadn’t had much luck at finding one until I picked up the Penelope. I knew immediately that I had found what I was looking for! It’s such a beautiful and versatile instrument. From big bands to solo trumpet with electronics, this horn plays it all. I can blend seamlessly in ensemble sections, and it cuts through effortlessly for solos with its gorgeous, warm sound. I get compliments pretty much every gig that I play on the purity of my sound. It’s my calling card, and I wouldn’t consider playing any other trumpet. Unless it’s another Schagerl, of course!