Miranda Lewis-Brown jazz cellist

Miranda Lewis-Brown, jazz cellist

Miranda Lewis-Brown is cellist with J.A.M. String Collective

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My parents were my first influencers in my life to pursue a creative career. They are music and drama teachers, so the importance on the creative arts was always high in my household. Growing up, I was inspired by things like Radio 1 Live Lounge and other live performances that showed musicians working together to create a new sound.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Finding a place for our sound in the music industry as jazz string players has been and continues to be a challenge. People are often quite resistant to the concept! Earlier on, before I’d started my journey as a string jazz musician, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to commit myself to musically. I knew I wanted to play in something that I could contribute to creatively, but it took a few years for me to find what that would be for me.

Of which performances/recordings are you most proud?

Our E.P. that we recently recorded in December. I’m hugely proud of it as it comes solely from us as a group and really encapsulates who we are and our sound. Our first gig together as a trio was at The Crypt and it was a tight window to get ourselves ready for it. I’m really proud that we pushed ourselves to be ready and confident in time, and I really feel it set a great precedent for our mentality within the group going forward!

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

I really enjoy performing arrangements of composers that have quite angular rhythms and allow me to find ways to play the basslines in a more gritty way. I love our Mingus arrangements; you can really have fun with them and as a cellist I love adding percussive sounds which I feel the pieces by Mingus lend themselves well to do so in.

I also feel you can perform in a different way when it’s your own composition, as you know more intrinsically what sound you’re trying to portray. I end up composing often around my own sound, which is usually focused around a heavy riff and lots of space for percussive rhythms.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I find a lot of inspiration comes for me from listening to podcasts based on people’s storytelling or hearing about people’s lives. I often base a composition based on a feeling or an emotion that comes from listening to those storytelling sessions. I am also a big animal lover and often my compositions have elements of animal storytelling in them. I also write poetry, and I’m trying more and more to combine my musical performances with that. It is also obviously hugely inspiring to watch musicians who you look up to and want to emulate in some way.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

We sometimes have a new technique or timbre we want to implement more into our set, so we will work on a composition or arrangement that achieves that. Aside from that, it’s about balancing the set and repertoire to make a cohesive order and concert.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

In London I really love The Crypt as it’s always got real music lovers attending. I also enjoy playing at Pizza Express Live as it has a nice, relaxed atmosphere. We played at Jazz at The Lescar this week in Sheffield and that was one of my favourite jazz nights we’ve ever played at, due to the very friendly and supportive environment that the promoter, Jez has created and that made it a lot of fun to play at!

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

I think promoters need to be more open to change.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

When I first played at Ronnie Scott’s that was very nerve-wracking due to the prestige of the venue, so that will always be very memorable to me.

An earlier memory, of playing at university with a local band that had orchestrated one of their albums with strings was really memorable for me, as it was the first time I’d ever played in a concert that I felt like I really, truly loved what I was playing and could see how the part I’d been given enhanced the overall sound, so that was a really amazing experience and shaped how I wanted to continue as a musician.

What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?

To keep trying out different styles of playing and to play with lots of different types of musicians, as you don’t know what might shape you, or who you might meet and what opportunity that might later present you with.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

I really don’t feel well versed in this subject to be honest, but I think it can always help to try to find new ways to engage younger people and to make the subject of classical music less elite.

What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?

Perhaps it is being spoken about but it should be more – how people often approach the man in a musical setting and assume he is the person with authority/most understanding.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

For me, I know I need to feel creatively fulfilled and feel like I’m contributing towards a growing project that I believe in and feel passionate about. I feel successful when I’ve written something that I imagined and then I’m able to portray fully and on a wider scale, it’s about being able to do that long term basis. I know that success will feel different at different points in my life, depending on what obstacles present themselves, but at the moment it’s about being about to continue to create music I love and being able to perform regularly at places that I feel inspired to play at.

J.A.M. String Collective’s 5-track debut EP ‘J∆M’ is released on 5th May. Find out more

J.A.M. Collective are:

Julia Dos Reis -viola
Annalise Lam – violin
Miranda Lewis-Brown – cello