Marcie Brown likes to put the cello into all kinds of music where it is not normally found. In addition to the standard orchestral and chamber music performances of a symphonic musician, she improvises, plays jazz standards and writes her own original compositions that sparkle with Brazilian, Indian, African, Caribbean and Irish influences. Between 2002 and 2004 she performed over five hundred shows with the Cirque du Soleil “O” show in Las Vegas. She played with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra for the 2004 season. In 2005, she was head of the strings department at the Oakland School for the Arts. Between 2006 and 2008 she performed extensively throughout the Bay Area with the Enchante’ String Quartet, the Agave Quintet, and also with her gypsy jungle band, the Druid Sister’s Tea Party. From 2009-2011, Ms. Brown played with the Portugese fado band Ramana Vieira and her Ensemble, and also with her improvising string quartet, the InStep String Quartet. She has recorded
Born into a musical family in Detroit, Michigan, Marcie began piano studies at the age of five and cello at eight. Her father was a conductor and violist, and brothers and sister all played string instruments. As a young adult, she earned a master’s degree in classical music at the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Tchaikovsky Competition Award winner Nathaniel Rosen. She was a free-lance musician then for eight years in New York City, picking up the electric bass and performing regularly with musicians from different countries such as Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti, Italy and Cuba. Ms. Brown also sang with an a-capella doo-wop group, Spank. Her first novel, Four Part Harmony, is based on this experience.
The search for broader musical horizons took her to the University of Massachusetts, where she worked on a second master’s degree in jazz improvisation and composition with Dr. Yusef Lateef. “As soon as I began to improvise, I felt free,” says Brown. “The written music had me tied down in a way, and with my discovery of improvisation, it was like somebody handed me some wings.”
Ms. Brown has performed with the Florida Symphony, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Houston Pops Orchestra and the Ali Akbar Khan Classical Indian Orchestra. As an improviser she has worked with the Archie Shepp Jazz Quintet, the John Blake Jazz Quartet and with her own Marcie Brown and Friends jazz quintet. She was a member of Yusef Lateef’s twelve piece world music ensemble entitled The World at Peace, which has performed in New York City, Los Angeles and in Verona, Italy, where they were a backup band for Sting. She has done shows with Ray Charles, Dizzie Gillespie, Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti.
Marcie recorded several CD’s with Yusef Lateef. One is a trio CD entitled Suite Life, and the other is a two disc compilation entitled The World at Peace. Her first solo CD, Love Will Never Die, is a short album of original ballads on which she sings and plays the piano and cello. Her CD Night of a Thousand Rains employs Brown on cello and vocals, brother Terry on piano and guitar, Paul McCandless on reeds, Bill Douglass on bass and John Blake on violin. Night has been featured on KCEP in Las Vegas and on KPFA in Berkeley. “The melodies are gorgeous…” said Jazz Now Magazine. And New Age Retailer wrote, “Marcie and Terry Brown have created an eclectic album of surpassing beauty.”
Ms. Brown has a 2009 release with Classical Gypsy Records, entitled Butterfly Girl. This CD uses musical influences from around the world to tell the magical story of the classical gypsy and the butterfly girl. Mixing with her soulful improvised cello lines are guitarist Terrence Brewer, percussionist Katja Cooper and vocalist Ana Nitmar. “With Butterfly Girl, the cello has a delicious new sound,” wrote Alameda Magazine’s JoAnne Tobias. Butterfly Girl has been featured on radio stations across the United States and in Canada.
Her 2011 CD “Reflections Over Brandy” has played on radio stations across the states, and also in Australia, Canada, Tokyo, Poland and the Netherlands. This CD crosses and mixes genres such as classical, jazz, reggae and rhumba into colorful and interesting original compositions. The players are Marcie Brown on cello, piano and vocals, Jon Evans on bass, Alan Hall on Drums, John Patrick Douglas on clarinet and saxophones, and the InStep String Trio. “I am stunned by the remarkable CD and instrumental skills of Marcie Brown.”, wrote Joost Van Steen of the Jazz and Blues Tour Radio, in the Netherlands, after listening to “Reflections”.
As an educator, Ms. Brown pioneered a program in improvisation for strings in the jazz department at the University of Maine. She has given workshops in improvisation at the University of Arizona, the University of Connecticut, the University of Las Vegas, and was guest artist and workshop leader at the Koflach Summer Music Festival in Koflach, Austria. She also offers master classes in improvisation for middle school and high school students wherever she is performing. She teaches private lessons on a regular basis at the Alameda Cello Academy, a school that she recently founded.
Brown has published articles for the American String Teachers Association Journal, Jazz Now Magazine, and the Alameda Journal. She is a member of the American String Teachers Association, the Suzuki Association of the Americas, and the American Federation of Musicians. She currently lives on the ocean in Alameda, California with her husband and her nine year old daughter Isabelle, who plays violin, cello and piano amazingly, though she does not like to practice.