jamie begian - full bio


Composer/guitarist Jamie Begian is an emerging and unique voice on the jazz horizon.   His 17 piece labor of love, a.k.a. The Jamie Begian Big Band, is fast becoming one of the "must-see" ensembles in New York City.  This group, established in 1998, has earned praise from The Village Voice calling it "... some of the most gorgeous post-Gil hues in recent memory."  TimeOut NY praises it as "...a crack large ensemble..." while All About Jazz labeled it "... a rigorous encounter with the entire history of eclectic big band composition..."   Jamie's compositions have won honors as well.  In 2001 he was the winner of the "Charlie Parker Award," presented by the prestigious BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, for his piece Fuzzy Math; the same award he was nominated for in 2000 with his piece Oops!

Jamie's road to becoming a big band leader is a story of both dedication and opportunity. Enrolled as an undergraduate student at the University of Hartford's Hartt School of Music in 1983, Jamie wanted to move beyond his “Classic Rock” guitar influences and became interested in the language of jazz, particularly the post-bop and hard-bop represented by the Blue Note label.

After earning his B.A. in music Jamie performed with and led various jazz groups in his home state of Connecticut, eventually moving to New York City in 1989 as a graduate student enrolled in the Manhattan School of Music. Outstanding teachers, such as Guitarist Rodney Jones and Pianist/Composer David Lalama encouraged Jamie to go his own direction musically without worrying as to which style or tradition his music adhered; they gave him the confidence to begin to follow his own path, both as a composer and as a player.

These outstanding role models proved invaluable to Jamie in his next endeavor: teaching music on the college level. Jamie began his career in education at Western Connecticut State University in 1991. Initially hired as a Jazz Guitar instructor, Jamie quickly became, and remains to this day, an integral part of that program's re-emergence. Over his seventeen years there Jamie has taught courses in Jazz Arranging, Jazz Theory, Jazz Improvisation, and Jazz History in addition to directing big bands, small groups and guitar ensembles and has been the full-time coordinator of the Jazz Studies Degree Program since 2005.

Upon completion of his Masters Degree, Jamie continued his study of composition by joining the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop in 1993. The workshop, directed by Jim McNeely and Manny Albam, provided Jamie the opportunity to explore long-form composition and advanced orchestration.  In 1996 Jamie was included in the BMI annual concert for the first time with his piece Trance.  The response to Trance and Jamie's subsequent efforts in the workshop was so positive that it became the impetus for his forming his own big band.

Jamie also sought out and studied with Trombonist/Composer Bob Brookmeyer.  Studying with Brookmeyer re-affirmed for Jamie the importance of following and believing in his own direction; Brookmeyer provided yet another outstanding role model for teaching excellence.

Jamie's talents extend into the instrumental realm as well; his consistent development as an outstanding guitarist can be heard in his performances with The Jamie Begian Trio. Formed in 1997 with drummer Peter Retzlaff and bassist David Ambrosio, The Jamie Begian Trio made its mark as a spontaneous and freewheeling group, bringing a real sense of adventure and exploration to its performances of Jamie's original music and standards.

This tradition of playfulness, freedom of form and modern harmony is carried on with his current quartet consisting of former WCSU students Jonathan Blanck, Tim Walsh and Chris DeAngelis.  This current quartet has been together since the Fall 2005 and is hoping to record their original tunes this summer.

Jamie's involvement with the pulse composer federation has only further cemented his vision as a unique artist, his music is always different, always challenging and always stamped with his distinctive "voice"  Jamie continues to grow both as a guitarist and as a composer and is looking forward to the 2009 release of his second big band recording entitled "Big Fat Grin."