By Khaleel Herbert
For most kids, the first day of fourth grade can be nerve-racking. But for Adam Bartczak, it was a time of musical discovery. Bartczak picked up the only available instrument left for his band class at Dora Moore Elementary–the trombone. His teacher, Rod Buckner of Buckner Funk and Jazz, showed Bartczak the ropes (or in this case the bell and slide tube) and thus began a longtime career in music.
Bartczak studied music at the University of Colorado–Boulder and graduated in 2001. He moved to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory of Music where he studied with Composer Bob Brookmeyer and received his master’s in jazz in 2007. When he returned to the Centennial State in 2010, he pursued a doctoral degree from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
He’s played with many artists including Ziggy Marley, Ron Miles and Del the Funky Homosapien. Bartczak formed his own group, the Adam Bartczak Republic, and released an album in 2012 called, “Grass is Greener.”
In addition to writing music for himself, Bartczak has also written music and sold it to other composers. His arrangements have been played by groups in performances that featured popular artists like Donny McCaslin, Jeff Coffin and Robin Eubanks.
Currently, Bartczak plays with his group, the Adam Bartczak Republic, and other groups at Denver clubs and restaurants including Dazzle, Nocturne and Lola. He also teaches music classes at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
What do you like most about Jazz music?
Freedom! The freedom to improvise, collaborate and be yourself in an abstract, artistic setting.
Who are your musical influences?
Local musical legend Ron Miles, who is also on faculty at MSU Denver, has been a great influence since I was young. Composers Bob Brookmeyer, Maria Schneider, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and J.J. Johnson. Outside of jazz I have listened to a lot of classic rock–Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles–and different world music styles including music from Cuba, Brazil and West Africa.
Why did you start the Adam Bartczak Republic?
My last name is pronounced, “bart-check.” My old bandmates would call me Check, and as a joke, said I should start my own band called the Check Republic. The original group was an 8-piece group I formed in Boston when I lived there. When I moved back to Denver, I expanded it into a 19-piece big band.
What did you like most about making “Grass is Greener?”
It was a great learning experience. I’m happy with the way it turned out, but would do some things differently on the next big band album based on the many techniques and ideas I absorbed in making “Grass is Greener.”
In addition to writing and performing your own music, you write and sell music to other musicians?
The music I sell on my website, other than recordings, is in the form of sheet music intended for groups to perform. They are usually academic groups, but also some community and professional groups. I have sold charts to people in some far off places. Sweden for example.
What was it like studying under Bob Brookmeyer?
He was a knowledgeable and compassionate guy with a lot of funny stories. He could look at a score I brought him and make helpful suggestions and edits without even playing through it (he had been working in music so long with so many great artists). I only had a handful of lessons with him, but they greatly impacted the direction of my music and of so many others as well.
What was it like performing with Ziggy Marley, Ron Miles, Del the Funky Homosapien and other artists?
Always a great and very different experience. These artists have all attained a level of fame and professionalism based on their passion and strong work ethic. They all have this in common: being serious about what they do and getting it done. But also being nice people. That’s as important as anything in this business.
Where else have you performed in Colorado?
The Telluride Jazz Celebration has always been one of my favorites to play. I’m hoping to get back there soon. The Five Points Jazz Festival in Denver is another good one. I play regularly at other venues such as La Rumba, Appaloosa, Lola and Ophelia’s.
Any gigs out of the country?
I’ve done some workshops in the United Kingdom, but not extensive performing abroad. I used to tour a lot in the US, but these days I mostly play in Colorado.
How often do you rehearse before performing a gig?
It really depends on the group. Some, we never rehearse. Just show up and play. That kind of spontaneity is always fun. It gives the music more of an edge. I’m fortunate to be able to play with musicians who work hard on their own so they can do almost anything on call when we’re performing.
What do you like most about teaching at MSU Denver?
The diversity and open attitude of the students and faculty is unique compared to many schools. Many of the students work either full or part-time, so they have a realistic view of the world and what you need to do to succeed. It really changes the motivational factors involved in being in higher education.
What classes do you teach at MSU Denver?
Classes I’ve taught at Metro include jazz trombone, jazz theory, jazz composition and arranging, jazz combo, history of rock and roll, basic music technology, music theory lab and introduction to music. I like the diversity in being able to teach different courses from semester to semester.
What goals in the music world do you want to accomplish in 2018?
Keep playing and writing, hopefully record another album or even two. Teaching is also an important part of my life. I like to think I learn as much as my students do from our interaction.
What’s one thing you want people to take away from your music when they hear it?
Like most artists, I’m hoping to cultivate a unique and honest voice that reflects what I really think and feel. Sometimes it’s abstract. Other times less so. Getting people to appreciate it on any level is an ongoing goal.