Join us this Wednesday at 4:30pm CST for an interview and LIVE performance with Damen Tolbert of 3rd Damention on Chicago’s WIIT 88.9FM streaming live at radio.iit.edu every Wednesday from 4-6pm.
Name: Damen Tolbert
From: Chicago, IL
I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. As a child music was always in my life. My father is a DJ as well as a great singer. I fell in love with the saxophone when I was 10 years old when I heard the Dave Brubeck tune “Take 5.” Not too much later I heard the classic Coltrane rendition of “My Favorite Things.” There was something about its sound that drew me to it. It wasn’t until I was 15, a sophomore in Morgan Park High School, that I was given the chance to play in beginning and marching band under the direction of Mr. Micah Frazier (R.I.P.). I soon found that I had a knack for the instrument and music in general. By the end of my first year playing an instrument, I was already section leader. Jazz was introduced to me that same year when I joined the school jazz band. I immediately understood improvisation since I’ve always had my own musical ideas. By the next year, I was the most entertaining soloist in the school. By this time, with no solid theoretical knowledge or music arrangement skills, I started writing my own music. My senior year, for the winter concert, I and three of my friends performed “Qristmas Cuartet” (a medley of Christmas tunes using 2 trumpets, an alto, and baritone saxophone).
Thanks to procrastination and divine intervention I was awarded a full marching band scholarship to attend the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). It was a culture shock and period of self-enlightenment that I will never forget or regret. There I became a member of the Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South under the direction of Mr. John R. Graham. The marching band was very time consuming and physically taxing. It required discipline on and off the field. I immediately joined the school’s jazz band where I switched to baritone sax since there were too many altos. Between the marching and jazz band, I quickly gained the respect of my peers and instructors alike. Freshman year, I was awarded the Freshman of the Year title from the band. By the next marching season, I was promoted to section leader; a position that I held for 2 years.
In my 4th year I decided to leave the band for various reasons. Knowing that singing was in my blood, I got voice lessons from Dr. Heidi Gordon, the assistant choir director, in order to prepare myself for try-outs. With quite a bit of difficulty, I was admitted into the UAPB Vesper Choir for my senior year. This experience was much different than being in the band.
Thanks to the time allowances, I was able to focus more on my studies. For my senior project I decided to produce my own album entitled “Into the 3rd Damention” based on my nickname “3-Damentional.” This was a work of mostly original music based on the concept of “musical inception.” The album features my production, jazz, composition, and poetic talents in various ways.
After graduating from UAPB with a 3.4 GPA in Music: Sound Recording Technology, I decided to continue my education. I now attend Vandercook College of Music going for my Master’s degree in Music Education. Since my return to the city, I have performed at several venues. For these gigs I’ve had to accumulate my own band. First as the “Damen Tolbert Quintet,” I called out to my musician friends and family to play with me. Most recently we’ve expanded to an 11 piece group including a guitarist and 5 vocalists. I felt the “Damen Tolbert Band” sounded very elitist when the band is more of a democratic collage of different personalities. Carrying the concept of “musical inception” over from previous philosophies, we renamed the band “The 3rd Damention.”
We are not afraid to play with any style. We perform original music and original arrangements. We play a mix of jazz, rock, funk, r&b, blues, gospel, or whatever comes up in rehearsals.