Kerwin Young Sets the Record Straight
28 Aug 2018
Kerwin Young

Contrary to belief, and due to much ignorance by interviewers who constantly reject publishing the facts I give them, I come from a traditional music background.

I may not have had piano or violin lessons, but I was first chair alto saxophone in my elementary school band for four years, where I learned how to read music. I also studied with my dad, who was a legendary trombonist, and he taught me how to transpose parts and read both alto and bass clef when I was a pre-teen! I also sang in a church choir (to my reluctance) from 1977-1983, and we performed at Carnegie Hall.

I was in my school’s band from 1979-1983, and rap music was in full force (The Treacherous Three, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow, Sequence, Crash Crew, Funky Four, Run DMC etc…). I was feeling the current music scene a whole lot more than Sousa. I was feeling pop music in general, and not just rap music. So, quite naturally I discontinued playing in band.

I did, however, resume playing the saxophone in 1994; but I switched to tenor saxophone (heavily influenced by John Coltrane). I was also mentored by famed drummer Roy Haynes, who was a local resident in the neighborhood.

Yes, I was a professional disc-jockey, which did launch my career spinning alongside DJ Tommie Allen at the Spectrum Café, in East Meadow, Long Island, five nights a week (August 1988-Spring 1990). I was an under-aged dj in a grown up environment. Everything was overlapping. I graduated high school in June 1988, and I had already begun working with Public Enemy a year earlier.

Here’s An Unknown Fact: I actually began needle dropping and making mix/pause tapes in 1978! That’s one year before Rapper’s Delight!! My eldest brother would bring home party tapes in 1977 and ’78, so I was well aware of the beats used underneath the mc’s. I had a thorough knowledge of pop music since the age of 4, and my dad always kept me with a musical instrument since that time as well. I grew up when the radio was not stylistically segregated and splintered as it is now. The playlists were quite diverse. AM radio was popular when I was a youngster. FM didn’t become mainstream until 1979, and that’s when the division became more and more apparent. I was exposed to all genres of music as a child, and I was also fascinated by movies and film music.

I began composing to paper in 1994, and by 2000, I had completed 2 large orchestral scores, and was writing my first symphony (symphony no. 1 took ten years to complete). In 2002, I enrolled at the Paris Conservatory, and they told me that I was too old! Stunned by this, I spent the next six years off the grid, disgusted; though remaining creative. In 2009, I enrolled at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance to resume my studies in orchestration and harmony. However, at that time, I had an enormous body of work already.

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