Home > Feature/Interview, Pete Vriesenga, Symphonic/Classical, The Denver Musician > Sam Gill – Pioneer of Musical & Cultural Diversity

Sam Gill – Pioneer of Musical & Cultural Diversity

Thelonius Monk, piano - Sam Gill, bass - Kenny Dorham, trumpet - Willie Jones, drums; performing at Tony's, Brooklyn, NY

Thelonius Monk, piano - Sam Gill, bass - Kenny Dorham, trumpet - Willie Jones, drums; performing at Tony's, Brooklyn, NY

Published in the Denver Musician, Fall 2007
By Pete Vriesenga

Sam Gill has appeared with jazz greats such as Max Roach, J.J. Johnson, Phineas Newborn, Paul Bley and Thelonius Monk. He has recorded with the likes of Randy Weston , Art Blakey and Max Roach, and is listed in the International Who’s Who in Music, Who’s Who Among Black Americans and Blacks in Classical Music. In 1955, Downbeat Magazine ranked Sam Gill above jazz icons such as Milt Hinton and Paul Chambers, etching Sam’s name into history as one of the “New Star’s” in jazz. This December, after 48 years as a member of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Sam Gill will retire from the orchestra after a rich and influential career.

Sam was born in Brooklyn, NY, a springboard for a career destined as a model for cultural and musical diversity. He studied bass and piano while attending Juilliard and Manhattan Schools of Music. Sam received  his Bachelor of Music with emphasis in double bass performance,  and Master of Music Education degrees simultaneously in 1960. During this period, he also performed with the Connecticut Symphony, Westchester Philharmonic (NY), and also the Municipal Orchestra that performed in various parks in the New York City area.

As a jazz bassist, Sam would become a notable partner in the cultural and scholarly phenomenon of the 50’s known as The Music Inn. Founders Stephanie and Philip Barber opened The Music Inn in 1950 as a summer haven for jazz and folk musicians in a beautiful setting of the Berkshires of Massachusetts. With an eclectic offering of roundtable discussions, lectures and legendary concerts, The Music Inn played a pivotal role in raising public awareness for jazz as a pure art form. American filmmaker Ben Barenholz produced a beautiful documentary covering this rare convergence of artists titled “The Music Inn,” which features Sam with commentary and performance footage.

In the spirit of Stephanie and Philip Barber, Sam’s art extended well beyond jazz and the classics. He toured the United States and Canada with the Harry Belafonte Singers, and with folk/blues legend Josh White. For thirty-five years, Sam was musical and artistic director for the Ebony Magazine Fashion Show presentations in Denver, Colorado Springs and Cheyenne, WY. He has surely worked with the great musical artists of our time,  representing every style and genre of music.

Sam’s pioneering career led to historic achievements that only happen when talent, determination and character intersect. He was the first to earn a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Colorado with emphasis in double bass performance. The senior member of the CSO (formerly Denver Symphony Orch.), Sam may now hold the title as the longest-tenured black musician in a major symphony orchestra.

Sam Gill

Sam Gill

Typically dressed in a sport coat & tie or better, Sam carries a smile that is as genuine as his music and personal convictions. At age 75, Sam will surely continue his art, interests and passions well into retirement. He enjoys swimming, chess, and is a 32nd-Degree Mason and Shriner.     Amidst all of the joy, music and celebration of Christmas, Dr. Samuel Gill will be leaving his position with the CSO after 48 years; also a legacy of musical diversity and  inspiration.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.