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Wrong Clarence Boykins?

Clarence Boykins

Minister of Music

The Carey Tercentenary AME church

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The Carey Tercentenary AME church

Background Information


Musicians Union


Wright Community College

Web References

All That ‘Local’ Jazz | Russell Publications Online

www.russell-publications.com [cached]

It was this way for Clarence Boykins, 73, one of the jazz greats living here among us.

Clarence, of Monee, became interested in music at the early age of 7, when he started singing in church.
At the age of 8, his family moved from Richie, Miss. to Chicago.
For a few years, Clarence tinkered with piano lessons. But it didn't last, he said, because that's not where his heart was. His heart was in singing. story continues below »
The Carey Tercentenary AME church in Chicago selected Clarence as their Minister of Music when he was 17.
In this position, Clarence was in charge of the youth choir.
After completing high school, Clarence went on to college and attended Wright Community College in Chicago.
There, he majored in engineering.
It was during his second year in college that Clarence "accidentally" became a bassist.
Having signed up for all the required courses, Clarence found he came up short three credit hours.
He took "choir" as one and a half of those credit hours, and "beginning strings" for the other credit-and-a-half.
Once enrolled in "beginning strings," Clarence chose to play bass.
In high school he had heard Percy Heath, George Duvivier, Ray Brown and Sam Jones, and he wanted to play like these musicians.
During his college years, Clarence began to meet famous bassists who encouraged his musical career.
It was during this time that Clarence began to play professionally.
Clarence had a unique talent that many musicians of that era did not have.
That was the ability to read music.
Because of this ability, he was requested by many musicians who were aware of his musical aspiration.
His name spread quickly throughout the local music community, and in 1957 Clarence made his career official by becoming a member of the Musician's Union.
Today, Clarence is president of The Cool School, Inc., a booking agency located in Monee.
Clarence is also one of the musicians and plays the acoustic bass violin, commonly known as the upright bass.
"My biggest inspiration was my step-dad, who wasn't a musician," Clarence said.
"I remember doing homework and he would come up to me and ask me how I could be doing homework and humming at the same time." Clarence hadn't realized he was humming the songs he had heard different jazz musicians play.
"My step-dad told me the tunes I hummed were very intricate and maybe I should put aside the engineering, and become a jazz musician.
That's what I did," Clarence said with a smile.
"Barbara Morrison was one of the big names I played for," Clarence said.
"It was different to play with her because you didn't get a chance to practice.
You were given a CD, you listened to it and you played.
You really need to know your stuff to play with the big guys," Clarence said.
With all the modern and different types of music out there, Clarence shared how important he thinks it is to expose young musicians to jazz.
"Exposure to jazz is the second most important thing," Clarence stated.
"They first need to be physically fit, and then jazz makes you mentally fit." Unless you are looking to hear jazz, it's not easily found.
You won't find it playing on a track at the store, nor will you hear it playing at a restaurant.
When Clarence was asked if he thinks jazz is getting lost in the current music trend, he said, "Yes.
In the near future, Clarence and The Wallace Burton Trio are expected to perform at Andy's Jazz Club and Restaurant located at 11 East Hubbard Street in downtown Chicago.
The details are still being worked out, but info can be found on Andy's Web site www.andysjazzclub.com.
To book any of these bands, or to check out some of their music, please visit their Web site at www.kewlschool.net, or you can reach Clarence by e-mail at coolschool@kewlschool.net.

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