Read our interview with Brandee here.
A classically trained harpist, Brandee Younger received her undergraduate degrees in Harp Performance and Music Business at the Hartt School of Music in West Hartford Connecticut, where she was also mentored by the faculty of the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz and African American Studies. Her studies at Hartt, coupled by the mentorship of the jazz department would serve as the foundation for her career as an innovative harpist. “My time at Hartt was critical to my growth in becoming the musician I am today. While there, I always wanted to do things differently and constant encouragement from Nat Reeves, Steve Davis and Jackie McLean gave me the confidence to move forward without acknowledging boundaries. They never once said ‘no’ to me, ever.” Upon graduating from Hartt, bassist Nat Reeves introduced her to saxophonist Kenny Garrett, with whom she would learn some valuable lessons in ensemble playing and improvisation. By the time she entered New York University six months later for graduate school, Ms. Younger had built quite a resume having opened for Slide Hampton as a member of the Hartford based collective “The New Jazz Workshop”, developed a working relationship with producer and artist Ryan Leslie and grammy winning producer Omen, and joined the harp faculty at the Hartt School Community Division.
She began working with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane in a series of concerts honoring the music of the late pianist, organist and harpist, Alice Coltrane. The study of Coltrane’s music, along with work of harpist Dorothy Ashby, would help Ms. Younger to begin to create her own sound and style as a harpist and musician. After several years of playing as a sideman in various ensembles, Ms. Younger released her debut EP, “Prelude” which was originally intended for use as a demo. In June 2011, the EP was recorded in an analog studio with bassist Dezron Douglas, drummer E.J. Strickland and vocalist Niia; After Prelude’s official release it was received with much acclaim on the indie music scene. Mercedes Benz featured the well received original track ‘So Alive’ in their compilation “Mercedes Benz Mixed Tape” and said: “highly reminiscent of legendary jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby…a compelling soul jazz composition, in which all instruments are melded to a haunting universe centered around Niia’s celestial voice. Beguiling musical subtlety in these times of loudness.”
As a classical musician, Ms. Younger has been a featured soloist with The Harlem Chamber Players and was a selected artist for the Impulse Artist Series, a solo music series led by Houston pianist and innovator, Jade Simmons. Ms. Younger has also performed with an array of ensembles including the Eastern Connecticut Symphony, Waterbury Symphony, Soulful Symphony, Ensemble Du Monde, Camerata New York and the Red Bull Artsehcro, a “non-conformist” orchestra.
She has worked & recorded with a number of jazz luminaries including Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Wycliffe Gordon, Charlie Haden, Reggie Workman, Kenny Garrett, Rashied Ali, Butch Morris, and Bill Lee, as well as a host of New York City’s top, young jazz musicians.
In hip-hop, she has worked with several artists and producers, including Common, Ryan Leslie, Cassie, Talib Kweli and Drake. She effortlessly performs in many diverse genres, due to her proficiency as an artist and all around musician, not just as an instrumentalist.
A native of Long Island, New York, Ms. Younger grew up in Hempstead and Uniondale where she began her harp studies as a teen. She earned her Bachelor of Music at The Hartt School of the University of Hartford her Master of Arts from New York University. Her formal instructors on the University level include harpists Rebecca Flannery, Susan Jolles, Emily Mitchell, and bassist, Nat Reeves.
Currently, she resides in New York where she maintains a rigorous performing and teaching schedule. In addition to performing, Ms. Younger has a private teaching studio in New York and is on the harp faculty of the Hartt School Community Division at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, CT; Adelphi University in Garden City, NY and The Greenwich House Music School in New York, NY. She is Vice President of the Long Island Chapter of the American Harp Society.