Playin’ Around With Playbook: Bijon Watson

Hey everyone! Trista back with another Playin’ Around With Playbook update. To kick off the new year, I spoke with trumpeter and educator Bijon Watson

Bijon Watson’s career as a musician and educator spans more than 25 years and has taken him around the globe to perform for audiences worldwide. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Bijon began playing the trumpet at the age of 8. He attended the New England Conservatory of Music Preparatory School, and the University of Southern California, and was a member of the 1994 Disney All-American College Band and 1995 Disney/Grammy All-American College Jazz Band.

Bijon’s love for big band and Latin jazz inspired him to become a student of the great bands of the past and present and he has become a sought-after and in-demand lead trumpet player. Bijon is the lead trumpet for the Grammy-nominated Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Grammy-nominated John Daversa Progressive Big Band, the Grammy-nominated John Beasley’s Monkestra, José Rizo’s Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars, the late Gerald Wilson Jazz Orchestra, and many other jazz, salsa, and pop bands throughout the United States.

We are so grateful to have a relationship with Bijon and his wealth of knowledge and wisdom here at Playbook! Below is an excerpt from our conversation on December 30, 2022. Click here to view the full interview. 




TRISTA FORD: I know that you’ve had many notable experiences, like the one you were just talking about. I’m curious, can you tell me a little bit about your experience with the grammy-nominated Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra? 

BIJON WATSON: Well I’ve been very fortunate to be the lead trumpet player of that band for about twenty-two years now. Yeah, I came on in 1999 and had the pleasure of learning a lot from Smithy Young, who’s a prolific trumpet player. He was a main mentor, as well as Bobby Brian senior, and Byron Stripling of course. So, big shoes to fill, but I’ve been really proud to work with them for a long time. 

TF: Do you have a particular experience that stands out to you with that band? 

BW: There’s so many. We were the house band at the Hollywood Bowl for about three years, 1999, 2000, 2001. I had a chance to play with Diane Reeves, and John Clayton was writing original arrangements at that time, so you know, playing with Diane Reeves and Joe Williams, and Stanley Turrentine. All these great jazz musicians.

TF: As a young trumpet player and educator, who inspired you growing up? Was there an educator that inspired you? 

BW: I grew up in Sharon, Massachusetts, and my elementary school teacher, Mr. Baker, was the one who suggested to my parents that I get private lessons; you know playing, hot cross buns and Mary had a little lamb. That started it. That led to participating in a program at New England Conservatory, where I met other students who were really focused on getting better at their craft, and really pushed each other. 

TF: Why do you feel platforms like Playbook are so important in today’s classroom? 

BW: At the end of the day, musicians are part of a community right, a larger community. This is how you build that community. One of my mentors, John Clayton, doesn’t like to refer to it as networking because it kind of takes the personal nature out of building relationships. These are relationships that are with people I’ve played with for decades, you know, and people you reach out to and ask questions about and the craft, and we are supporting each other, and that’s important. So platforms like this increase that.


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