Tina Raymond Leads By Example


Tina Raymond, recipient of a DownBeat Jazz Education Achievement Award

(Photo: Lauren Desberg)

Drummer and educator Tina Raymond has become a reliable fixture on the Los Angeles jazz scene. Her discography encompasses numerous credits in the catalog of L.A. label Orenda Records, including albums by pianist Cathlene Pineda and saxophonist Jon Armstrong, as well as her own leader date, Left Right Left. Jazz fans regularly see her onstage at venues such as the Blue Whale and Sam First.

“I try to play a couple times a week,” Raymond said, “but I look at the ending times of gigs now. If a gig goes till 2 a.m., I’ll have to rethink that. Nobody likes a grumpy professor.”

Raymond, who recently became director of jazz studies at California State University Northridge, is the recipient of a 2020 DownBeat Jazz Education Achievement Award. The Detroit-raised musician spent years playing in municipal bands, school bands and any other setting where she could find work. She had her first paying gig at age 13 and was fortunate enough to work with the Detroit Civic Jazz Orchestra under the direction of trumpeter Marcus Belgrave (1936–2015).

As a double major in jazz and classical percussion at the University of Cincinnati, she studied with drummer John Von Ohlen, a veteran of Woody Herman’s and Stan Kenton’s big bands.“He taught me to use gravity, and how to play free,” she said.

With that wealth of experience and the encouragement of drummer Jeff Hamilton, Raymond made the move to Southern California, where she studied with Joe LaBarbera at the California Institute of the Arts.

Raymond pursued a path as an educator, working at a few different schools, with the grade level of her students increasing along the way. Each leap—from teaching middle school to high school to college—came with new hurdles. “My students now are dealing with things I never had to deal with,” she said. “Los Angeles is expensive, and a lot of them are living with family and are expected to contribute to the income of the house, help pay for rent and childcare, and pick up their brothers and sisters.” Raymond realized she had to step back to see the bigger picture, and understand where music studies fell in among the priorities of her students and how she could be a positive presence.

“Tina holds students to a very high standard, yet she remains approachable,” said Dr. Christine Gengaro, a voice and music history professor at Los Angeles City College, where Raymond previously taught. “She has no ego in the classroom. It’s not about her.

Raymond is leading by example. Her students see her dedication to her craft, her pursuit of a singular sound amid her role as a keeper and interpreter of the flame. Her impressionable students also realize that her office hours might occur between gigs.

“Being a teacher makes you a better musician,” Raymond said. “It keeps you connected to younger generations and what the new generations are listening to. It keeps you practicing and improving your own skills as a performer and educator. It’s almost selfish to be a teacher, because you are keeping your own skills fresh.” DB

This story originally was published in the September 2020 issue of DownBeat. Subscribe here.

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