School of Jazz: Shaina Ellis serves as guest DJ | KNKX

School of Jazz: Shaina Ellis serves as guest DJ

Sep 5, 2019

Alto Saxophonist Shaina Ellis from Central Washington University in Ellensburg will join Abe Beeson tonight (Sept. 5) at 8 p.m. as guest DJ. Listen to the show and read her Q&A and playlist. 

Which instrument do you play and why?

I play the alto sax! I originally wanted to play trumpet, but my older brother already played it, so I chose the next best thing. I’m so glad sixt- grade me chose saxophone because I ended up falling in love with its timbre and versatility in sound.

What’s your all-time favorite jazz piece?

"Waltz for Debby" is certainly one of my favorite jazz tunes. I had always thought the melody was pretty, but the first time I ever listened to the lyrics to it was when I heard Johnaye Kendrick sing in Tacoma. Before she counted off, she dedicated it to her children. I learned that "Waltz for Debby" is about growing up and leaving childhood behind. I’ve held this song dear to me this past year since leaving home for college and getting to experience what living on my own is like.

Who is your jazz hero?

One of my biggest jazz heroes is Nadje Noordhuis, because her story and her kindness is really inspiring to me. After not playing trumpet for a few years, owning only two jazz records, and suddenly getting fired from her job for being a woman, she decided to pick up the trumpet again and fly to New York to study at MSM. Now she plays with Darcy James Argue, the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, DIVA, and teaches at the Manhattan School of Music Precollege program. She reminds me that you can pick up jazz at any time in your life and be loving and kind to everyone. 

Why jazz?

I love jazz because I used to be very shy and it was a way for me to express what I wanted to say. I think my friends would agree I became more outgoing once I started playing and listening to jazz more towards the end of high school. I also love that every aspect about jazz translates to real life situations. It teaches you how to take other people’s ideas and build off of them, how to work as a team, and how to support each other no matter their backgrounds or circumstances. It teaches us to consider and understand other people’s feelings and ideas. 


“Told You So,” Count Basie (I Told You So)

 “Wisp After Wisp,” Alexa Tarantino (Winds of Change)

“He’s My Guy,” Sarah Vaughan (S.Vaughan with Clifford Brown)

“No Smoking Allowed,” Evolution Jazz Trio (Introducing the Evolution Jazz Trio)

“Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” Sammy Miller & The Congregation (Sammy Miller & The Congregation)

“On the Sunny Side of the Street,” Louis Armstrong  (The Definitive Collection)

“I’m So Scared of Girls When They’re Good Looking,” Phil Woods (The Rev & I)

“La Madrina,” Melissa Aldana (Visions)

Follow Shaina Ellis  on Instagram: @shainaellis