Daniel Jamieson, originally from Toronto, was the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival's Rising Young Star in 2008.
Now, it's Staff Sergeant Daniel Jamieson, based in Maryland and one of three staff arrangers for the U.S. Army Field Band. And oh, by the way, he has a resume that includes internationally-recognized work as a composer, arranger and conductor; a Grammy nomination and collaborations with jazz stars from Joe Lovano to Joshua Redman, the Toronto Symphony, Broadway stars, and the Metropole Orchestra. And his own Danjam Orchestra provides the outlet for his own big band/jazz orchestra writing. Daniel holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music.
A: It has been an interesting couple of years for sure. I am grateful to have had employment. So many of my talented peers have had little or no work. It is heartbreaking.
Q: Tell me about arranging for the U.S. Army Field Band.
A: I'm 1 of 3 staff arrangers. The Field Band's mission is to connect America to their Army through music. Under normal circumstances the bands tour ~100 days a year playing free concerts for the public all across the country. Due to the pandemic we switched to a virtual format featuring livestreamed small ensembles performances combined with archival footage of the larger group. We've just started to travel once again. I write for their concert band, soldiers chorus, jazz band (Jazz Ambassadors), blueglass / commercial (Six String Soldiers), as well as various small ensembles.
Q: How did that job come about? Isn't it unusual that a Canadian would get such an important job in the U.S. military music world?
A: I found out about the job opening from SFC Paul White (also an arranger at The U.S. Army Field Band). We were both participants in the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop at the time under the direction of Jim McNeely and Mike Holober. I remember Paul and I got together to chat about the job and I decided at that point I was going to put all my energy into winning the job. One of my mentors - the great Rich DeRosa (UNT), put me in touch with former West Point arranger, the late Tex Arnold, who then introduced me to the amazingly talented (vocalist) Alexis Cole, who had also served in the West Point Band. All three advised me as I prepared for the audition, and then celebrated with me after I won the job. Alexis sent me some wonderful letters while I was locked away at basic training without a phone. They always put a smile on my face. After a very lengthy audition process where I had to write a number of sample pieces and work with all the different groups, I won the job. Then I spent the better part of a year trying to obtain a green card on my own. Then there was basic training at Fort Jackson which lasted 10 long sleepless weeks. More recently I became an American citizen. My writing responsibilities are done primarily from my home office and I go into the office regularly for rehearsals, meetings, and training as needed. Thankfully, I am able to maintain my freelance writing & conducting schedule outside of my military responsibilities.
Below: Daniel Jamieson collaborating with saxophonist Joe Lovano
Q: Tell me about the big band scene.
A: l would say the contemporary big band scene is thriving - especially in New York. There are so many great bands out there! Big bands do make up a good chunk of my work but I would say I write more for orchestra. Usually I am called to write a fresh, creative, modern arrangement of a piece to feature an instrumental or vocal soloist. It is definitely interesting to look back at all the various influences that have crept their way into my writing.
Q: Where does Danjam fit in your life?
A: The Danjam Orchestra (my big band) is my opportunity to write & perform my own original music and I am looking forward to being able to perform with the band again live! However, I am very lucky that my freelance commissions are creatively satisfying jazz projects. What I love most about my job is that every day is different. I get to write for all sorts of different ensembles and various styles of music. It's never boring!
Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years? What would you like to have done by then?
A: I recently launched a new business with my good friend - trombonist Steve McFarlane - in June of 2021.
It's an online space where composers, musicians, and listeners come together to celebrate the music we love. I was trying to find musical inspiration during the pandemic where live music is scarce. My goal with this website was to build a community of composers, musicians, and fans. I went into it thinking it would be a fun side project. At the end of our first month we had members from 12 countries from around the world. We livestream Composer Spotlights (masterclasses), Listening Sessions, Roundtables, Group Lessons, and Artist Q&As. Additionally, each week we upload a free Mini-Lesson to our YouTube channel featuring one of our guests. Notable presenting artists include: Darcy James Argue (Secret Society, Queens College), Richard DeRosa (University of North Texas), Andy Farber (Julliard), Miho Hazama (m_unit, Metropole Orchestra, Danish Radio Big Band), Pete McGuinness (William Paterson University), Jim McNeely (Frankfurt Radio Big Band, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra), Rufus Reid (WDR Big Band), and Dave Young (Toronto's own!). We are constantly adding new artists to our roster.
Here is a short video overview of the website:
Anyone who achieves a level of success in the music industry knows you cannot do it alone and I am very grateful for everyone who mentored me and believed in me along the way: Rick Centalonza, Alex Dean, Rich DeRosa, Mike Malone, Jim McNeely, Vince Mendoza, Cathy Mitro, Dave Neill, John Pagnotta, Terry Promane, Paul Read, & Tim Ries.