NASHVILLE, TN — Deborah Ghent says when she and her husband Carl went on their first date, they hit it off so well that they discussed naming their first child Jazmin to honor their mutual love for jazz music.
The couple had no idea they would have twins, but their decision to name their daughter Jazmin seems almost prophetic considering the recent success and recognition she has garnered as a smooth jazz artist.
Jazmin Ghent, who was recently voted Best New Artist of 2017 by the Smooth Jazz Network, outshined Gerald Albright’s daughter Selina Albright, Billboard-charting jazz guitarist Adam Hawley and a host of other smooth jazz notables for the coveted title.
Ghent earned a master’s degree in music from Tennessee State University in 2014. She said music has always been a part of her life.
“If I didn’t have music, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said. “Music distracted me from getting off track and being something I’m not. It really allowed me to express myself and find my way in life.”
Nicknamed “Jazzy Jaz” by her grandfather Fletcher Gaines, who also played saxophone, Ghent grew up listening to jazz standards from his music collection, as well as the music of Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum and Brian Culbertson.
Currently an elementary school music teacher on weekdays and a traveling smooth jazz phenom on weekends, Jazmin credits TSU for playing a major role in her success.
She said Dr. Robert Elliot, head of the Department of Music at TSU, her residence life coworkers Gregory Williams and Brent Dukhie, and various members of the TSU family, provided direction and support during her time at the university.
“I found out about the program at TSU through the Bobby Jones Show,” she said. “I performed on his ‘Show Your Talent Show,’ and went to do an interview with Dr. Elliot. He didn’t have to give me a chance and an opportunity, but I am beyond thankful that he did.”
Elliot, who served as chair of Ghent’s thesis committee, said that as a musician, Jazmin brings the “total package.”
“She is very much a modern saxophonist, but she is well-grounded in the music of those greats who came before her, and she has built upon that legacy,” he said. “Jazmin is a very knowledgeable musician and a very creative person. She has good character, a pleasing personality, and the great ability as an educator to teach people about what it is she does.”
Elliot said for her master’s degree project, Ghent developed a summer camp in music for children to teach them jazz. She held the camp and then documented the curriculum and the delivery of the curriculum.
A great deal of Jazmin’s love for education comes from her mother Deborah, who worked as a special education teacher for 38 years. Deborah Ghent, who currently serves as her daughter’s manager, said Jazmin and her twin sister, Jenai, started taking piano lessons at the age of six and playing saxophone in middle school.
According to her mother, Jazmin honed a lot of her leadership skills and musicianship in church.
“She was always a little different because she would read the music, but she would always like to add things to the music,” her mother said. “At the age of 8 she started playing in church, and she and her twin sister alternated weeks and they became the church Sunday school pianists. When she was older and the church pianist was out, she would take over. When the pianist was there, Jazmin would find a little spot over in the corner and she would play the saxophone along with whatever hymns or whatever songs were being played in church.”
Jazmin’s dedication and commitment to music paid off in high school when she was named drum major of her 200-member high school band in Huntsville, Alabama. She held the position for three years until she graduated and attended Florida State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music education with a minor in jazz studies.
As she continues to find success as a professional musician, Jazmin also relishes in the opportunity to continue working as a music educator.
“Education is such a big part of my life and what I do,” she said. “I think it’s always going to be there in some capacity. If the opportunity does present itself, I will definitely be a full-time professional musician, but I will always like to keep some aspect of education. My goal is to get my doctorate and teach on the collegiate level, so I’m going to try to juggle them both for as long as I can.”
Currently, Jazmin is working on her third project, “The Story of Jaz,” which she said highlights her various musical influences and life experiences.
“I’m one of those people who likes to go outside the box and try different things,” she said.
Jazz lovers from around the world can experience Jazmin’s unique musical gift at her scheduled performances which include bookings at the Perfect Note in Hoover, Alabama, and the Mallorca Smooth Jazz Festival in Mallorca, Spain.