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Since 2005, KNKX's School of Jazz has provided mentorship, learning and performance opportunities to Western Washington middle school, high school and college jazz students. A cornerstone of the station's signature community outreach program, it has directly impacted thousands of jazz students, band directors and professional musicians. School of Jazz is sponsored by BECU.

School of Jazz: Nate Gilbreath serves as guest DJ


Trombonist Nate Gilbreath from Bellevue High School will join Abe Beeson virtually as guest DJ at 7 tonight (March 4) on Evening Jazz. He is a senior and in the jazz band at Bellevue High School and Bellevue College. 

What instrument do you play and why?
I play the trombone. I started on piano in the second grade, and then started playing trombone three years later, in fifth grade. I originally wanted to play clarinet so I could play saxophone in the middle-school jazz band, but at the last second, something made me switch. I’ve always had second thoughts about playing the trombone. The trombone just feels slow and awkward, compared to the relative ease of pushing your fingers down on one or many keys. However, attempting to overcome the challenges of playing and struggling to improvise to a degree I find passable has taught me a lot about myself, and I don’t believe I’d be able to convey a better-defined message on any other instrument.

What’s your all-time favorite jazz piece?
My favorite piece is “Someday My Prince Will Come” off the Miles Davis record. Everybody’s playing just works really well together. My favorite moment from the piece is when Hank Mobley begins his solo, Jimmy Cobb switches from brushes to sticks, and the quiet intensity and subtle propulsion of his playing is briefly exposed for everyone to hear. Even after listening to it hundreds of times, I’ll still hear things I haven’t noticed. It’s one of those songs where you can forget about it for a month or two, and when you finally come back to it, it’s like you’re listening to it for the first time over again.

Who is your jazz hero?
There are too many people whose playing has been inspiring and influential to my own playing for me to pick just one person. I take inspiration and concepts from everywhere from almost anybody, from Immanuel Wilkins to high-school players to Kenny Dorham, Ben Van Gelder and Gerald Clayton, to name a few. However, the person who I look up to the most is Ambrose Akinmusire. His playing and his perspectives off the bandstand have taught me that no matter how much imitating I do, no matter how much I want to appeal to a certain person or audience, I need to be and play myself, because that’s all I can do at the end of the day.

Why jazz?
I’m very fortunate to be able to play and share this music with other people. Through collaboration, improvisation, realization and hard work, jazz has created new, positive relationships and helped me to reinforce and invest in the relationships I have right now. I’ve realized the value of struggle and how important it is to persevere. I’ve realized the value of accepting myself for who I am and the importance of keeping an open mind. And these are just some of many, many lessons I’ve learned attempting to play this music! Engaging in this lifelong learning process is what got me to where I am today, and I certainly wouldn’t be who I am now without jazz.


“Grace and Mercy” Immanuel Wilkins (Omega)

“Regret (No More)” Ambrose Akinmusire (When the Heart Emerges…)

“Oh Tannenbaum” Vince Guaraldi (Charlie Brown Christmas)

“East of the Sun” Sonny Stitt (Personal Appearance)

“Chromazone” Mike Stern w/ Michael Brecker (Time in Place)

“They Say It’s Wonderful” John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman)

“Stablemates” Walter Smith lll (Live in Paris)