We had the good fortune of connecting with Zach Rich and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zach, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
The simple answer is that expressing myself through writing music is incredibly fulfilling, and it gives me a high next to nothing else. Like many in my field, I’ve always felt drawn to create music, and it just seemed natural to continue down that path. Some things, especially emotions, are too complex to describe with words alone. As I’ve continued in this field, I realize that my favorite part of being a musician is the community. We musicians have a sort of unconditional love and appreciation of each other that can seem quite rare in this day and age.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Jazz is one of America’s most deeply rooted art forms. I’ve always felt a deep connection with the many forms of jazz, as well as virtually every other style of Black American Music such as Rhythm and Blues, Hip Hop, Soul, and Funk, just to name a few. Lately, I’ve been very fortunate to have several opportunities to share my music with the world. I released my first album, “Boundless” in summer of 2020 alongside two wonderful friends and colleagues, Joey LeClerc and Matteo Sabattini. I’ll be recording an album of chamber jazz music this fall with the generous support of Pathways to Jazz. I’ll be heading to Chicago soon to work with some of my all-time favorite musicians on a piece I wrote for string quartet and rhythm section. Day to day, I write music for a wide variety of ensembles from the New York Youth Symphony and Colorado Jazz Orchestra to high school and college jazz ensembles throughout the country, and many other professional and student ensembles in between. I perform with my own group at local jazz venues such as Dazzle and Nocturne, with the feel-good folk-rock Graham Good and the Painters (we had our Red Rocks debut last October), and as a freelance trombonist, trumpeter, and studio arranger for all styles of music. I’ve had the honor of receiving awards and recognition of my work from ASCAP, ASMAC, the International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers, the Jazz Education Network, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Downbeat Magazine. I’m thankful everyday that I get to make a living doing what I love.
Talking about struggles along the way:
It certainly hasn’t been easy to get this far, and I still have quite a ways to go. Although the music community is very supportive, we all have to eat and the market is quite saturated. Creating good content is an important piece of the pie when it comes to having a successful career, but certainly not the only part. A modern artist needs to think on their feet, finding ways to stand out and have their art noticed. It’s very important to be part of the community. Know that you need to help and support others if you want them to do the same for you. This pandemic has also taught me, as well as many others, that anyone in a creative field must adapt to changes quickly if they want to use their art to make a living. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to fail. As long as you’re trying, failing can be a sign that you’re making progress; if you learn from your mistakes, it’s never a waste of time.
At the end of the day, we put all this time and money into our trade because it brings us joy. If we can bring joy to someone else in the process, that’s a tremendous victory. I personally love all music. I spend a lot of my days arranging anything from big band jazz to studio arrangements for pop albums. It’s important to be as diverse as possible, while still dedicating enough time to execute everything at a high level.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are so many great bars and clubs in Denver. We’d have to hit Dazzle and Nocturne, Denver’s two full-time jazz clubs. They’re always bringing in great talent, local and otherwise. If we had a week, I would definitely scope out other venues as well such as Larimer Lounge, Lost Lake, Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, Herb’s, Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, the Fillmore Auditorium, Levitt Pavillion, and of course Red Rocks. I’d be remiss if we didn’t check out the amazing Colorado Symphony Orchestra as well. The Denver Central market is a great spot to hang and get a bite to eat. Steuben’s Uptown and My Brother’s Bar in LoDo are great spots to get comfort food or a good burger. Of course, being in Colorado, we gotta go to a brewery or two. The Great Divide has a great taproom. If my friend is in town for a week, we definitely need to make a trek west into the mountains as well. If it’s summertime, the annual City Park Jazz Festival puts on ten free concerts and it’s always a great hang.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to dedicate this shoutout to my mentors Drew Zaremba, David Caffey, and Dana Landry, as well as one of my first teachers who got me really exposed to and interested in jazz, Lisa Hittle. I’d also like to thank some of my best friends I’ve made in Colorado, who also happen to be amazing musicians: Adam Wissman, Graham Good, Lance Ruby, Daniel Thompson, Joey LeClerc, Cameron Collums, and Matt Brown. Of course, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today without the support of my wonderful parents, Jim and Theresa Rich.
Amaya Arevalo Photography