District is Instrumental to Musician’s Success

School District of Palm Beach County is Instrumental to Musician’s Success
Posted on 02/11/2020
Charlie Porter

Charlie Porter is an internationally acclaimed trumpeter, composer, and graduate of the Palm Beach County School District. In January, he won a Grammy for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album for his collaboration on Songplay, opera star Joyce DoDonato’s crossover album.

“I’m happy to have the recognition for my work and definitely pleasantly surprised to have won,” Porter said.

Porter attended Forest Hill Elementary School, Jefferson Davis Middle School (now known as Palm Springs Community Middle School) and the Palm Beach County School of the Arts (now known as Alexander Dreyfoos School of the Arts). He holds degrees from The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of music in jazz and classical performance. He was also a Fulbright Scholar at the Paris Conservatory.

His Grammy win is the latest chapter in the story of his love of music. As a child, his grandmother took him to concerts that sparked his interest in the arts. As a teenager, it was a visit to see a performance by famed musician Wynton Marsalis that made a lasting impression. Porter’s grandmother had walked with him backstage to meet Marsalis, who graciously handed Porter his horn, and allowed him to play a few notes.

“That experience was life-changing,” Porter said. “[Marsalis] told me to go home and listen to Louis Armstrong and play what I heard. At first, that felt impossible but I started to get it after a while, and once I played my first solo concert at 14 years old, the deal was sealed.”

From that point, Porter envisioned a career in music. As a student in the District, his orchestra, jazz band, and theory classes provided a solid foundation of training that were all fundamental in the development of his skills. Porter credits his band director Randy Sontag as being one of the first teachers who sat him down and played recordings of great music for him to listen to and absorb.

“Those were exciting moments that fueled my interest in music,” Porter said. “Another band director Wayne Miller taught me discipline in music, and Sy Pryweller my trumpet teacher, taught me a deep love and appreciation of the instrument.”

In addition to the encouragement he received from his teachers, Porter’s mother Monica Narsiff was influential in his rise to musical career success. Narsiff has been an employee in the District’s School Food Service Department for more than 20 years.

“My mother was hugely supportive of my musical aspirations, driving me around town, buying me my first trumpet, and making sure I stuck to a schedule,” Porter said.

Not content to rest on his laurels following his Grammy win, Porter released an album last November called Immigration Nation, which received a four-star review in DownBeat magazine. He continues to tour the world as a side-man and bandleader in jazz as well as a classical soloist and chamber musician, performing and recording with many notable musicians.

Years of experience have given Porter valuable insight into what it takes to succeed in the music business, and he is eager to share advice with young people who dream of a career in the arts.

“Nothing is handed to you; you have to work for it,” Porter said. “Listen to a lot of music, both recorded and live, then try to play what you hear from recordings without sheet music. Form your own bands outside of school and write your own music, even if you don’t know how at first. Teach other people what you know and keep the cycle going!”

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