June 12, 2017

Pharez Whitted

  Pharez Whitted wears many musical hats. As a jazz trumpeter,
recording artist, composer and music educator, the Indianapolis native and IPS
alumni inspires a wide range of music lovers through an art form he was
literally born into.

That Whitted would become anything other than a prolific jazz
musician would, in certain circles, be unthinkable considering his musical
roots — which go as far back as the 1930s in Indianapolis along the famed
Indiana Avenue.

A member of the legendary Hampton family, Whitted is the son of
the late bassist and singer Virtue Hampton (of the Hampton Sisters) and nephew
of renowned jazz trombonist, composer and arranger Slide Hampton. His father,
drummer Thomas Whitted Sr., has played with jazz icons Freddie Hubbard and Wes
Montgomery.

As a child music was all around Whitted, who began playing the
trumpet at age 9 after finding one inside of a closet. He has been active on the
professional music scene since the 1980s, performing for the Billboard Music
Awards and even at Carnegie Hall. His first album, “Pharez Whitted,” was
recorded on the Motown label and released in 1994.

But as much as he loves making, recording and performing music,
he also loves teaching it. Whitted served as director of jazz studies at Chicago
State University. He is currently the jazz director of the Chicago Youth
Symphony Orchestra’s Jazz Orchestra.  

Recently inducted into the Shortridge High School Hall of Fame,
Whitted hopes to inspire and continue to lead the youth through jazz music.

IPS is proud to recognize the famed jazz musician as he reflects
on his early years and how his education led him to pursue his passion and love
for jazz.

Early life in Indianapolis …

Growing up, there were adults in my neighborhood
that took us kids places with them. Everyone knew one another and it wasn’t
just the people next door; there was wider range of fellowship in the
community.

I’ve maintained my education in the IPS school
district. I went to elementary school at School 4 and School 66. Then I attended
Kennedy Middle School, where I was bussed to the south side of town. Finally, for
high school I landed at Shortridge.

Your experience at Shortridge …

I
was heavily involved in the band at Shortridge. I played the trumpet, which I
still play today. I was also in the choir, played football and was part of the
wrestling and track teams. Though I was involved in a lot of things in high
school, music was my favorite.

Generally,
there were excellent teachers that stood out; I had many favorites.

Fondest IPS memory as a student …

I
remember my junior year I went on a fieldtrip with the band. We performed at a
parade in Holland, Michigan. Another fond memory was being on the football
team. I enjoyed the companionship of the guys on the team. We hung out a lot
and it was during a time that one could do different things and not be labeled
or placed into a clique. There were so many different avenues.

My IPS education prepared me for
….

The
unexpected. My education taught me how to cope, improvise and how to be
creative. It taught me not to expect things to be handed to me. Instead, it
taught me to work for things I wanted to pursue.

Higher Education …

I went to DePauw University; I enjoyed my college
years. Myron El was the choir director at Shortridge and he was very
influential in me attending DePauw. I received my bachelor’s degree in music. After
college, I went to graduate school at the IU Jacobs School of Music at Indiana
University in Bloomington and received my master’s degree in jazz studies.

My life
since graduating …

Between
1983 and 1985, I taught trumpet at Shortridge; during this time, Shortridge was
a middle school. Then I taught at Wabash College, Ohio State University and
Chicago State University. I found that higher education was the right path for
what I wanted to pursue; it helped shape my outlook.

I
currently am the director of Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Jazz Orchestra, and I
enjoy what I do. I am also a jazz mentor for the Ravinia Festival. Part of the
festival’s “Reach, Teach and Play” outreach program is called the Jazz Scholars,
where we work with students from Chicago Public Schools. We also serve a
variety of schools throughout the city and work with band directors.

Additionally,
I enjoy spending time with my band. I am the leader of The Pharez Whitted Group.
We are writing music for a play on (poet) Langston Hughes that is going to show
in Chicago. We are also working on a new album this summer.

Proudest accomplishments …

Being
nominated for Independent Jazz Album of the Year in 2010 was a proud moment for
me. (Another is) working with kids in music to associate the benefits of music
and how it applies to life. Also, having the opportunity to play with John
Mellancamp, who is a well-known rock artist.

Family …

I
have a son, Maceo, 21, who lives in Chicago. He is a hip-hop music producer and
currently attends Chicago State University.

I
come from a family of four brothers and two sisters. Both of my parents played
an instrument. My mother played the bass and my father played the drums. The
family band performed at the Apollo Theater and Carnegie Hall. My mother was a
Hampton; the Hampton Sisters was a jazz group and one of Indianapolis’
performing legends.

My
family is very musically inclined. They traveled all over the country and there
was even a documentary (“The Unforgettable Hampton Family”) on them on PBS.

Interests/ Hobbies …

I
enjoy my work and music. Life pleased, but not satisfied.  

Vision/Dreams …

My
vision is for people to see beyond their own interests and give others respect
and a chance to live without persecution. I want kids to discover the possibilities
in life —  to use their imaginations,
their creativity and to think for themselves. Instead of getting in each
other’s way, they can help each other.

Final Quote …

Believe
in yourself and never give up. Acquire knowledge, experience and compassion
because this is only Act 1 of an extended play in which you are the lead
character. Be fearless!