Chris Brubeck is much like the music he writes — serendipitous, unpretentious, and
Brubeck, 71, is a lauded American musician and composer, both in jazz and classical
music. As a musician, he mainly plays electric bass, bass trombone, and piano. The
son of noted jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, in 1972 he joined his father
and brothers Darius and Daniel in The New Brubeck Quartet. He later formed The
Brubeck Brothers Quartet with his brothers and performed in jazz venues and with
symphony orchestras around the world.
Brubeck has toured for more than 30 years. Onstage his irrepressible enthusiasm is
matched by his fluid command of jazz, blues, folk, funk, pop, and classical musical
styles. He continues to perform and record with his two groups, The Brubeck
Brothers Quartet, and Chris Brubeck’s Triple Play. He has worked with many
diverse artists, including Frederica von Stade, Benjamin Luxon, Dawn Upshaw, Bill
Crofut, Meryl Streep, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Gerry Mulligan, Bela Fleck, Bobby
McFerrin, Stephane Grappelli, Bobby Womack, Tower of Power, and Patti Labelle.
A much sought after Grammy-nominated composer, Brubeck continues to
distinguish himself as an innovative performer and composer who is clearly tuned
into the pulse of contemporary music. Many of his "classical" compositions contain
strong hints of the jazz influence of his father. John von Rhein, the music critic for
The Chicago Tribune, said Brubeck is “a composer with a real flair for lyrical melody
— a 21st Century Lenny Bernstein.”
Among some of Brubeck’s commissions are: Quiet Heroes: A Symphonic Salute to the
Flagraisers at Iwo Jima, a moving piece for full orchestra and narrator; Mark Twain’s
World: A Symphonic Journey with Genuine Thespians (a genre-breaking piece for
orchestra and actors based on the life of Mark Twain) and the exciting Interplay for
3 Violins and Orchestra, with performances by violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
(classical), Eileen Ivers (Irish) and Regina Carter (jazz).
Brubeck’s compositions have been performed by orchestras all around the world.
His second symphonic CD, Convergence, on Koch International Classics features the
Czech National Symphony Orchestra and is entirely comprised of his original
compositions including Frederica von Stade singing River of Song. The CD also
includes Brubeck performing his second major trombone work, Prague Concerto for
Trombone and Orchestra. Reviewing Convergence, Fanfare Magazine wrote:
“Brubeck’s skill both as composer and soloist is extraordinary.”
Born in Los Angeles, Brubeck currently lives in Connecticut with his wife, Tish. We
caught up with him on a sunny winter day. He was writing holiday cards and
anticipating a visit from his grandkids. Here are a few highlights from our
conversation with one of America’s finest contemporary composers.
ZW: You are the son of a world-renowned jazz musician. Undoubtedly, you
were surrounded by music. Did you always have a jazz mindset?
DB: It was definitely organic — the influence of music in general. The fact that there
are six kids born to my parents, Dave and Iola, and four of us are accomplished
musicians and the other two also play music … that was the kind of family
environment I had.
ZW: Was there any thought of doing anything other than music?
DB: I never hated jazz or anything. I appreciated my dad’s position in life and liked
it. I thought he was immensely successful in that world. But as a kid in seventh
grade, where you go through theoretical rebellion periods I used to think rock and
roll on the radio was really stupid and primitive, but then the Beatles and The Beach
Boys came and I thought now we’re getting somewhere. So that kind of music really
During this time Chris was taking piano and trombone lessons and picking up the bass.
He was in the youth orchestra in the region, so clearly, he was interested in classical
music. But then a “very pivotal moment” happened.
CB: I didn’t make the freshman basketball team. I was crushed. I thought if I can’t do
basketball, I want to go to music school.
Chris attended the famed Interlochen Arts Academy and the national music camp in
the summer — which produced the likes of clarinetist David Shifrin, violinist Nick
Avakian, and, a couple of years later, singers Jewel and Josh Grobin among others.
Suffice to say, Chris was already shoulder-to-shoulder with a select group of talented
CB: The jumpstart in my life was, while most kids were screwing around learning
how to drink beer in high school, I was playing all this wonderful music — so that
was a life changer.
ZW: Sinfonia has the Sinfonia Youth Orchestra. What advice do you have for
CB: Unlike my generation, we didn’t have all these devices to bury our heads in.
Most kids have to practice. It doesn’t come by magic. You have to work like crazy.
And, you have to have God-given gifts, be grateful and then you have to develop
them and challenge yourself. I would also say, don’t narrow yourself down. Listen to
all kinds of music.
ZW: And what do you say to emerging composers?
CB: Really love what you want to do and if you do all the work you have to put into it
to get good at it won’t feel like work.
Chris organized a rock group with other kids who were classical musicians who also
loved rock and roll. He continued to work, record and release records until about 1975.
A few years later he joined his dad’s group as the bass player. He only stopped the
group, because his son actually made the basketball team and Chris wanted to watch
ZW: Clearly, you were innovative from the start with your interest in
combining your classical core with other types of music that interested you,
like Rock. I understand that after you wrote the violin concerto, Spontaneous
Combustion, for Nick Kendall, that Time For Three wanted you to write a piece
for the entire group. What was that process like?
CB: I went to Philadelphia to hang out with Time for Three to see what really
interests them and find out what they get a kick out of, so we jammed together for a
few days and I recorded the jam sessions. Obviously, if things came out in a jam
session, they are intrinsically in their music-making wheelhouse. So, I analyzed
these different elements and then organized the music. I call them little islands. It
may be just four bars of music, and then figure out how to bridge from one island to
the other and you keep going until you have a piece. I’m thrilled because they’ve
played it all over the world. One of the coolest gigs was when Time For Three played
it at Royal Albert Hall with the BBC Royal Orchestra in London and people just went
nuts. Then, it kind of came full circle when I was in Europe on tour and I got a video
from Nick and the guys saying, ‘Hey Chris, we’re doing the piece.’ They back up and I
realize the entire Interlochen summer orchestra is playing it. That was cool.
ZW: All of your stories are incredible examples of how interconnected the
music community is.
CB: Yes, and I have to say part of the reason that I’ll be coming back is Demetrius did
Spontaneous Combustion with Nick Kendall. He also did Ansel Adams: America and
the U.S. premiere of Brothers in Arts: 70 Years of Liberty, with a group of French
musicians to commemorate the 70th anniversary of World War II. Demetrius is very
connected to things I do and invited me to share another piece, so I told him I wrote
Fanfare for a Remarkable Friend, and I think you qualify! We’re also going to do one
of my dad’s most famous pieces, Blue rondo à la Turk and Take Five, which Time For
Three has never played before.
ZW: What should audiences listen for?
CB: With Travels in Time for Three, I would say to be conscious of how elements of
the personality of the players are projected into the music. Anyone who knows Nick
Kendall probably figures he is a deadly serious person, which he isn’t — he’s
hilarious. My music is very eclectic — there are elements of funk, rock and roll,
Debussy, and Bach and it sort of sneaks in somehow and stews up together, and
hopefully, they’ll find it fun. They won’t find it stuffy, that’s for sure.
Chris Brubeck and Time For Three will take the stage at Village Church in Destin on
Saturday, Jan. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Purchase tickets online at sinfoniagulfcoast.org.
Crescendo is “the highest point reached in a progressive increase of intensity” and an apt name
for the event extravaganza of the 2024 Northwest Florida social season.
Crescendo! A Cultural and Culinary Event Extravaganza is set for the weekend of March 1-3,
Want to snag a free seat? Simply join the Treble Makers, an honorary Sinfonia Gulf Coast
committee. For a $575 contribution, Treble Makers receive one ticket to the Crescendo! Main
Event, recognition in the event program, invitation to 2023 Thank You Party, a reserved seat at
the closed-to-the-public student Link Up performances on March 6, 2024, at the Destin-Fort
Walton Beach Convention Center, a special Treble Maker gift, and more.
Proceeds from Crescendo! 2024 will benefit Sinfonia and its music education community
engagement outreach programs, which include musicians/guest artists in schools, free
orchestra concerts, bus transportation for students, Sinfonia Youth Orchestra program, Arts in
Medicine initiative with Sacred Heart Hospital and Link Up concerts for third through fifth
graders in partnership with Carnegie Hall and more.
Tickets to Crescendo! 2022 are $195 per person and include all food, wine, reserved table
seating, performance, and valet parking. Tables of up to 10 guests may be reserved by calling
For more information or to purchase tickets, click here or call (850) 460-8800.
Q: 2023-2024 is Sinfonia’s 18 th year. She is an “adult” now! How does it feel to reach this
DF: It is truly hard to fathom that Sinfonia is approaching two decades. I say it every year, but
Sinfonia exists because of our amazing community. Our music education outreach and
community engagement initiatives are a void that we continue to fill in our school districts,
however the support of the community for our public concerts and events is what enables us to
exist in the capacity that we do.
Q: You are kicking off the season September 27 with Cabaret at Seagar’s headlined by Laura
Benanti, one of Broadway’s brightest soprano stars … she’s been on Broadway 10 times
earning a Tony Award for Gypsy (Louise) and appeared in our living rooms in The Sound of
Music Live! (Baroness Elsa). You could say this evening is “back by popular demand.” Why is
this particular event so popular and why did you invite this Laura Benanti to headline?
DF: The Seagar’s Cabaret is a magical evening. So many of our patrons say that it is their
favorite concert of the season. The venue (Seagar’s), the ambiance, the incredible cuisine and
wine pairings and above all else, the artists! Watching intimate performances by Grammy-
and/or Tony Award-winning artists up close and personal is like being transported to the iconic
Cafe Carlyle in New York City. It is definitely my favorite way to kick off the season. It is a “wow”
moment each year. I love that we can finally present Laura Benanti, whose pedigree and
resume more than speaks for itself. She and I have never worked together, but we have many
friends and colleagues in common. She is the real deal. A big deal. I am looking forward to
welcoming her to the Sinfonia stage.
Q: November 4 promises another powerhouse performer: Trombone Shorty & Orleans
Avenue. You are essentially presenting the world’s most famous horn player! What can we
expect from this year’s Gala Event and why should people come out to support it?
DF: Energy. Excitement. Booty-shaking musical revelry. All that is Trombone Shorty. Listen, how
do you top Patti LaBelle? You cannot. I knew we had to take a much different path with this
year’s gala. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue are a mind-blowing musical experience. They
are the best of the best musicians. I love that Shorty has his own foundation that benefits music
education. That resonates loudly with me. The gala supports Sinfonia’s most important work in
the community: bringing quality music to school children at no cost to them or their schools.
Hotel Effie at Sandestin will serve as an incredible backdrop for this evening extravaganza. As
always, expect a few surprises throughout the evening.
Q: You are serving up a tasty new treat with the Toast ‘n Jam series at the beautiful
Henderson Beach Resort in Destin. December 3 you present Time for Three (TF3) and
February 11 you showcase Chris Brubeck and the Brubeck Brothers Quartet. Anytime we can
enjoy live music and brunch, we’re in. Tell us more delicious details.
DF: Don’t forget the Bloody Marys and Mimosas! When COVID thwarted our plans to present
Time for Three performing Chris Brubeck’s concerto he wrote for them and orchestra, their
schedules haven’t enabled us to recreate that performance, but we will one day soon. In the
meantime, it was too important to just let them sit without sizzling for our audiences, so we
created this series for them at different times. Time for Three is a phenomenal crossover trio …
make that a newly Grammy Award-winning trio. Chris Brubeck. Well, the name speaks for itself.
Continuing the legacy of his father, bassist/trombonist/composer Chris and his brother Dan, a
drummer, have been playing together for a half century. Guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist
Chuck Lamb, complete this dynamic jazz quartet. We are looking forward to partnering with the
Henderson on this fun and family friendly event.
Q: Holiday Pops features “the last leading man” … tell us how two-time Tony Award winner
Brian Stokes Mitchell will make our season bright on December 8 with his famous baritone
DF: How fun is it that we get to present Trevor from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Brian Stokes
Mitchell is a behemoth of Broadway and concert stage and has quite the festive holiday
program with orchestra. Holiday Pops is always a patron favorite, and this year will be no
different. It is always such a fun way to celebrate the season with the sounds of the orchestra
enveloping you. This year we will have table seating to create an even more festive occasion.
Q: Music of the Knights will save us from the winter blues on January 20. Even the title of this
concert is full of mystery and intrigue. Sounds like audiences are in for some “royal
treatment.” Tell us more.
DF: A musical tribute to Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber …
featuring vocalists and Sinfonia’s amazing full orchestra. More than 40 years of the most
incredible music that has shaped generations. What is not to like?
Q: Classical Connections will feature saxophonist Steven Banks. Among many prestigious
honors, he is the 2019 Sinfonia Gulf Coast Young Concert Artist prize winner. Tell us why we
need to fill the hall on March 23 to hear this captivating young composer/musician.
DF: The Sinfonia Young Concert Artists (YCA) Prize is very special to me and Sinfonia. Young
Concert Artists is a nearly 70-year-old institution that has introduced incredible classical
musicians to the world. Sinfonia is honored to be able to offer an award to one of the winners
each season to perform with the orchestra, but also go out into our community to work with
schools, local bands, the Sinfonia Youth Orchestra as well as other community engagement
opportunities. Steven Banks is an extraordinary saxophonist whose career has catapulted since winning YCA. Steven is an artist that everyone should know. He represents the future of
classical music and the opportunities and importance that it carries for our culture.
Q: On May 18 Destin-FWB Convention Center will be the scene of an epic, action-packed
adventure with Jurassic Park in Concert. Why should families brave a Film in Concert 65
million years in the making?
DF: That’s 65 million plus three years to be exact. We are finally traveling to Jurassic Park after
two rescheduled dates due to COVID. These film in concert productions represent exactly what
Sinfonia is about…redefining the traditional symphony experience, melding genres, bringing
new audiences into the concert hall. With the amazing custom screen that hovers above the
orchestra, this will definitely be an experience for the entire family to see the more than 100
musicians on stage performing John Williams’s iconic film score. Larger than life in all regards!
Q: As we interview, you are hopping from Festival Napa Valley — where you have forged
long-lasting relationships — to a Visit South Walton media event in NYC, to a Young Concert
Artists Board event at the Aspen Music School. You travel frequently from coast to coast.
How does the local community benefit from your national connections?
DF: Literally anything and everything that you see with Sinfonia is a result of who I know in the
industry, who we already have a great working relationship with, recommendations from
colleagues and artist managers that I have worked with over the last 20 years. The networking
and travel are essential. To remain relevant, you must continually explore new artists, new
venues, new opportunities and I believe that we have done a great job of doing that over the
last 17 seasons. As we have been fortunate to continue to add new and talented staff
members, then we can multiply or reach our potential to introduce the stellar artists through
Sinfonia to our community. Being appointed to the Young Concert Artists Board in 2022 has
been a wonderful experience for me both personally and professionally and the opportunity to
create a partnership for the future is promising. Collaboration is key!
Sinfonia Gulf Coast is delighted to announce the recipient of the 2023 Grace Fulcher Memorial Scholarship. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a high school senior in the Sinfonia Youth Orchestra, in honor of the memory of Grace Bernice Fulcher, a Niceville High School student and violinist who was an exemplary member of the Sinfonia Youth Orchestra.
This year’s scholarship has been awarded to Maxine Sculthorpe of Shalimar, Florida, a senior at Fort Walton Beach High School.
Sculthorpe has been playing the violin in the Sinfonia Youth Orchestra for one year, and she expressed her gratitude for “the opportunities it provides for musicians to learn from each other and for the visits from professional musicians.”
Her scholarship application showcased her impressive achievements, including participation in Girls’ Varsity Lacrosse Team, Academic Team, Art Club, Beta Club, National Honor Society, Music National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, “Murals with a Meaning” painting project and ballet.
In her scholarship application, Sculthorpe shared her ambition to attend the University of Florida for her bachelor's degree in architecture and then attend Cornell University to earn a master's degree. She also plans to audition for student orchestras at the University of Florida to continue pursuing her passion for music.
“As an architect, I hope to combine aspects of philosophy, sustainability, music, and art in everything that I create. I want to help build a more beautiful and accessible future for all people, one that reflects the things that are already innately beautiful in our world: the arts,” she said.
To qualify for the scholarship, student applicants must plan to attend, or currently attend an accredited college or university on a full-time basis, have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, have acquired acceptance to or be enrolled at the college of their choice, and be an enrolled full-time student for the fall semester of 2023.
Demetrius Fuller, Founder and Music Director of Sinfonia Gulf Coast, expressed his pride in supporting Sculthorpe as she pursues her education and career goals. "Maxine Sculthorpe is a deserving winner of the 2023 Grace Fulcher Memorial Scholarship,” he said.
The Grace Fulcher Memorial Scholarship is just one of the ways in which Sinfonia Gulf Coast supports and nurtures young musicians. Through its various music education programs and performances, the organization is dedicated to inspiring and educating audiences of all ages about the transformative power of music.