How THEY Fell in Love with Jazz

In honor of our How I Fell in Love with Jazz contest, we asked a few of our favorite jazz lovers how they fell in love with jazz. Check out their responses (including from a few of this year’s talented judges), and maybe their answers will inspire you to submit your own jazz love story!

You can learn more about the guidelines and process below:

Wayne Shorter (Contest Judge 2021)

Contest judge 2021, jazz saxophonist, composer, and bandleader

To me, Jazz means “I Dare You!”

I saw Jazz as a movement, where the musicians, like superheroes, would fearlessly throw themselves into the unknown, exploring new and uncharted territories, while respecting each other’s ideas with the spirit of equality. I embraced this movement as a life mission, and within this mission, I have been trying to raise the nobility of the human condition.

Catherine Russell

Jazz singer

I really fell in love with jazz through Louis Armstrong. I learn every time I listen to him play and sing because I learn how to interpret lyrics. He was a great interpreter of story—great at storytelling. My two favorite jazz vocalists would be Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday because they’re a mixture of jazz and blues. Those two are inseparable. They also helped me to learn how I can share my love of song interpretation with my audience. This is what brings me joy: jazz, swing, and just...happiness. Happiness is what I get from jazz.


Shelley Berg

Jazz pianist, composer, arranger, orchestrator, producer, and Dean of the Frost School of Music

My father was a jazz musician, a wonderful jazz trumpeter, and there were always jazz recordings playing in the house. But when I was about 11 years old, he taught me the beginning of a song called “That’s All.” He told me to mess around with it, and so I did. It was so much fun, the freedom of it. And then, after a couple weeks, he added the next chord. Then I was hooked when I realized where jazz could go and what it could do. Between that and the Oscar Peterson records that my father had, that was all she wrote. I knew I had to spend my life in love with jazz.