Outstanding Emerging Jazz Artist

MSU Jazz Studies undergraduate participates in prestigious Jazz Ahead project.

Adam Olszewski center stage at the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program.
Impromptu jam session with Jason Moran, piano, David Adewumi, trumpet, David Leon alto saxophone, Evan Hyde, drums, Adam Olszewski, bass. Photo courtesy Miki Yamanaka.
Cyrus Chestnut workshops with Jazz Ahead students Gene Knific and Adam Olszewski. Photo courtesy Jati Lindsay.
Performance on the Millenium Stage, Adam Olszewski, bass, Alex Parchment trumpet, Photo courtesy The Kennedy Center.

Adam Olszewski never dreamed as a high school kid in jazz camp that in a few short years he would be invited to one of the premier jazz residency programs in the world.

But then it happened. In March, the 20-year-old jazz studies sophomore at Michigan State University packed his stand-up bass and traveled to Washington D.C. for the 17th annual Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program through the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“I never expected it,” says Olszewski. “You tell yourself you’re in the right spot and that you’re doing the right things, but until you hear that from someone else, you don’t really know. I’m so very excited that I matched the program’s idea of what a young person should be doing.”

Olszewski was among just 24 participants selected from a competitive audition process to attend the international jazz residency project that identifies outstanding, emerging jazz artists and composers in their mid-teens to age 25. Experienced artists and instructors lead the career development program for aspiring jazz musicians, and mentor attendees in performance, composing, and arranging skills.

“It’s an absolutely amazing honor to be selected for a program that has nurtured so many jazz greats,” says Rodney Whitaker, director of MSU Jazz Studies. “Adam is very humble but knows he has an incredible gift. I’ve never seen him take things for granted. He’s always working hard to be his best and to learn from those around him.”

Among the alumni of the Jazz Ahead project is Michael Dease, MSU assistant professor of jazz trombone. Dease remembers the thrill of being accepted to the prestigious program in both 2004 and 2005. As a self-taught composer, Dease says he felt some trepidation about his abilities, but that once there, he received encouragement and support to keep searching for his musical voice.

“Jazz Ahead’s faculty and peers helped provide me with a real-world look at life as a working, creative musician,” says the Grammy-award winning Dease. “I remember getting back to school with a renewed sense of discipline and responsibility toward my art.”

Olszewski shares a similar perspective.

“Attending Jazz Ahead made me realize I must expect quality from myself for the rest of my life,” he says. “That’s what musicians did before me, and what any art deserves.”

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