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WRTI is proud to highlight the accomplishments of young artists in our local communities. You can donate now to champion and support WRTI's education initiatives! Learn more about what inspires and motivates these musicians through the interviews in this series.

WRTI Young Artist Spotlight: Bassist Spencer Ellington Chambers

 Bassist Spencer Ellington Chambers
Joseph V. Labolito
Bassist Spencer Ellington Chambers

Spencer Ellington Chambers is a 14-year-old classical and jazz bassist from Berwyn, PA. Spencer began his studies in the first grade and has been featured on the cover of Bass World Magazine with bass legend Christian McBride. In the third grade, he was accepted into Juilliard’s Preparatory Program as a classical bass student of Albert Laszlo before joining Timothy Cobb's studio.

Currently, Spencer studies jazz bass with Gerald Cannon. Spencer attends the Jazz House Kids Academy in Montclair, NJ, and is a member of the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts Ambassadors Ensemble, which performs frequently at venues throughout Philadelphia. Spencer has also been a Primavera Artist since 2016. Chambers received the Student with Most Potential Award from Jazz House Kids in 2022 and was the principal bassist of the Juilliard Pre-College Symphony for the 2022/2023 season.

10 Questions with Spencer Ellington Chambers:

1. What do you like to listen to?

Jazz, old-school rap, and R&B, early 2000’s R&B.

2. Who are some musicians that have influenced your playing?

My influence for classical music was Joseph Conyers. I had a huge opportunity to have a lesson with him when I was only seven years old. My influence for jazz was Christian McBride. I actually met him the same year I met Mr. Conyers at the 2017 International Society of Bassist convention.

3. As someone who plays both classical and jazz bass, what similarities or differences do you see between the styles of music?

For me there aren’t that many similarities between jazz and classical, but the ones that are the most important ones as they both aim to reach the listener or to give that person emotional feelings towards it. The big difference in my perspective is that jazz is more impromptu than classical, but the bass happens to be the main powerhouse/rhythm for both jazz and orchestra.

4. How would you describe the role of the bass in a jazz band?

The bassist has a huge responsibility to keep the rhythm going because everyone except the drummer relies on the bassist. The relationship between a drummer and a bassist in a jazz band is a partnership.

5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I would see myself in a major music conservatory, but I also would like to pursue an acting career.

6. What was one thing about your instrument that surprised you when you started learning to play?

I was surprised by the range of how deep it was and how high I could make the sound go.

Bassist Spencer Ellington Chambers
Joseph V. Labolito
Bassist Spencer Ellington Chambers

7. What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?

What I love about Philadelphia. The food and that it's a huge city of classical musicians and an absolutely massive city for jazz. There’s the Philadelphia Orchestra, Curtis Institute, Temple Boyer College of Music, and last but definitely not least, we have the amazing Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz. Another reason is being a part of the Clef Club of Jazz.

8. What do you enjoy about playing in an orchestra?

The bass has the deepest sound, so I feel like it has the roots of the orchestra.

9. What was an experience with a teacher or peer that was impactful to you in your music education?

An impactful moment was when my first teacher at Juilliard, Albert Laszlo, taught me how to read music. And I realized how music actually impacts people because when I played a beautiful piece for my teacher on his last day at Juilliard, he actually cried.

10. Who have been the greatest champions of your career so far?

I have major champions across my whole career, but the best one of all is my mother, who drives me everywhere.

Spencer's Recommended Playlist:

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Lydia Veilleux has worked in music education and arts administration for the past 20 years, and has taught students of all ages in various community settings. As WRTI's Education & Outreach Manager, she oversees educational partnerships, sponsorships, events, and coverage.