Camille Thurman grew up in Queens, New York, and developed her love for music at an early age, practising flute, piano and vocals. As a teen, Camille was accepted to Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts, where she first picked up the tenor saxophone at age 15.
Although some of Camille’s experiences in her final years at high school almost drove her away from a career in music, through the support and mentorship of experienced musicians, she found her way back to jazz. In her short-but-prolific career, Camille has received numerous awards, played alongside some of the world’s greatest active jazz musicians, and recorded four full-length albums as a band leader, including her 2018 release, Waiting for the Sunrise, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard Traditional Jazz Albums Chart. In 2018, Camille was also invited to join the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for two seasons as a saxophonist, and is the first woman in 30 years to tour and perform full time with the world-renowned ensemble. Until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when not touring with jazz at Lincoln Center, Camille could usually be found on the road leading her own band, The Camille Thurman Quartet.
Camille and I caught up via Zoom in December to discuss her earliest influences in music, her experiences at high school - including the gender-based bullying she endured in her later years there and how this contributed to a loss of confidence in her musical ability - the value of mentorship in the development of a young artist, her experience touring with Jazz at Lincoln Center, and some reflection on how integral representation and community outreach are in bringing more women to jazz, and in restoring jazz to black communities.