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ABOUT

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Victor Haskins is a versatile multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improviser driven by a penchant for worldbuilding and interactivity, and celebrated for his boundary-pushing approach to music and multimedia art.  Victor views life as a game of curiosities, fostering connections between ideas and people through innovative means.

 

Haskins grew up as a military-dependent youth until his family settled in the United States, so Victor was always exposed to many cultures different from his own.  Thriving in diverse environments and having his senses stimulated in novel ways was the norm for him: Victor’s worldview and creativity know no bounds as a result.  Victor has always been a lover of reading books and playing games—especially board games and video games.  Engrossing himself in the text-based imaginary realm of stories—both fiction and non-fiction, the rule-based realm of board games, and the digital imaginary realm of video games helped to foster his robust and limber imagination in different ways.  Victor’s artistic practice “officially” began at the age of 10 in New Delhi, India—he received a cornet in beginning band class and instantly fell in love with playing and practicing it upon blowing his first note.  Dedicating himself to practicing the cornet and deepening his understanding of music over the years led Haskins to compose and record his first album, and shortly thereafter he founded his primary ongoing creative endeavors.

 

Victor’s two main projects as a performing artist are Victor Haskins & Skein and ImproviStory™.  Victor Haskins & Skein is an ensemble that performs original electroacoustic music, threading together storytelling, philosophy, African diasporic influences, and masterfully sensitive, mind-bending collective improvisation.  ImproviStory is a one-man-band where multi-instrumentalist/sound artist Victor Haskins improvises immersive, cinematic, story-like soundscapes for the imagination.

 

As a recording artist and composer, Haskins has released three albums of his original music: The Truth, Showing Up, and Ikigai (all exclusively available to hear and purchase at victorhaskins.com/music).

 

The Truth features a quintet of acoustic instrumentalists exploring a range of scenery-invoking compositions.  A few tunes that illustrate this are “Smiling with the Sun” (a groovy, funky foray that feels like basking in sunshine), “Winter Winds” (an energetic, Afro-Cuban tinged descent down snowy hills and icy terrain), and “Grey” (the embodiment of a hero fighting their way through a post-apocalyptic wasteland).  Victor produced and released The Truth when he was 20 years old, and it remains a strong display of his singular vision of composing, improvising, and creating a signature experience as a bandleader and recording artist.  “The Truth…could not have a more apt title. This is music: thoughtful, passionate, skillful, contemplative, life itself is contained within the set. Isn’t that what we would hope our music to be? The reflection of our lives?” (Grown Folks Music).

 

Although Victor had composed all the music that would appear on his sophomore album, Showing Up,  just a year after the release of The Truth, Victor took his time honing and expanding his artistry for 6 years before he recorded and released Showing Up.  This sizable gap was necessary for Haskins to develop proficiency with a new and powerful tool—the electronic wind instrument (EWI).  Additionally, he had to formulate the ability to design his own synthesized sounds for the EWI, refine his process for modulating acoustic and digital sounds in a live setting, and organize and shepherd a new, dynamic group sound which these technological developments helped to make possible.

 

Showing Up—featuring Victor Haskins & Skein, with Randall Pharr on bass and Tony Martucci on drums—encapsulates Victor’s development of a group sound featuring electronic sound design (via the EWI), live audio processing for both his cornet and EWI, and his classic hallmark of intricate ensemble interplay and cinematic story arcs within compositions.  Victor produced this album during a period of intense personal development and soul-searching, which is reflected in the featured compositions.  Some tunes that illustrate this breadth of emotional territory include “Touch” (an ode to intimacy in the form of a both delicate and impassioned ballad), “Spite” (a cathartic investigation of malice featuring a glitchy and processed cornet battling the drums melodically and rhythmically with bass undergirding the harmonious fight), “Reliving the Past” (a reminiscence of childhood memories through a vacillating quasi-march/quasi-new jack swing groove, and melodies colored by a European classical sound and the Black American tradition of the blues), and “Psithurism” (a piece which evokes the feeling of being carried through the air by intense gusts of wind whilst flying in a barrage of leaves).  Showing Up was a success.  “While wordless, Haskins' songs are like short stories, and in this case the narrative is clear, as the music moves from gentle awareness to full engagement…Haskins has a strong individual voice, but it is too unpredictable to have set into a brandable ‘style’” (Style Weekly).

 

“Ikigai” is a Japanese concept which loosely translates to “reason for living” in English.  The music on this album is directly inspired by the philosophies that guide Victor’s life and personal interactions.  Richmond CultureWorks awarded Victor a grant for the 2021-22 season to produce Ikigai.  His proposed methodology for production involved presenting a series of free, public concerts for the Richmond community—concerts he would record, and later mix and edit into a what would become the final product: a live album of original compositions.  Several tunes from Ikigai which demonstrate its range and depth are “Alone with My Thoughts” (an ethereal, dreamlike exploration of space and stillness, and introspection), “Me vs. Me” (an energizing excursion into the idea of competing only with oneself), and “Everything Is a Game, Somehow” (a musical perusal of Victor’s philosophy that everything is a game to be played, featuring the Afro-Brazilian ‘aluja’ rhythm, uptempo swing, and a hip-hop groove).  “Ikigai is an absorbing and involving experience….With Ikigai Haskins continues his masterful journey—and life's purpose, perhaps -in exploring and delivering musical worlds of wonder” (All About Jazz).

 

“Everything Is a Game, Somehow” is also part of a suite of 17 original compositions composed by Victor Haskins which borrow rhythms from the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé.  This body of work investigates philosophies and stories related to the human experience, personal development, and interpersonal relationships.

 

As a multimedia artist, Haskins has presented his sound-based, multidisciplinary works via his ImproviStory concept for a variety of occasions and organizations.  For the 2023-2024 season, Richmond CultureWorks awarded Victor a grant to develop a digital, interactive visual element with ImproviStory, tying together computer programming, visual art/new media, and sound art.  

 

In February of 2023, Haskins conducted a residency at Sweet Briar College where he performed a concert with ImproviStory and worked with their music ensemble, Daisy's Harp, and the improvisational dance class.  The College of William & Mary Library commissioned Haskins to create a new work, “FRAME”, to celebrate the new Arts Quarter at the university in 2022.  This piece featured the confluence of improvised soundscapes, conversation with the audience, and new media.  

 

In 2020, Richmond CultureWorks commissioned Victor to create and perform “Be/Flow”, a collaborative performance involving improvised soundscapes, improvised dance (featuring Meoleaeke A. Jones and Kevin Lamarr Jones), and new media created by Haskins.  The Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) Performing & Visual Arts Magnet Program commissioned Victor to create an original, multidisciplinary work for their teacher professional-development seminar in August of 2019. His creation, entitled "The American Way", examines lynching of African-Americans in post-Civil War America in relation to killings of African-Americans at the hands of police in the modern era.  This performance was comprised of improvised dance (featuring Meoleaeke A. Jones), improvised soundscapes, theatrical staging, and new media

 

1708 Gallery selected Victor to present original, multidisciplinary works for their large-scale, light-based art installation (called InLight) for both the 2019 and 2020 events.  For InLight 2019, Haskins presented “Chimborazo, in Every Sense of the Name (1865-1866)”, an exploration of the true story of Chimborazo as a refugee camp for newly-freed African-Americans in 1865 in Richmond, VA, and the conditions which precipitated the camp’s demise in 1866.  For InLight 2020, Haskins presented a reimagined version of his previous work, “The American Way”.  The new performance, “The American Way (Hindsight is 2020)”, reprised the ever-relevant material of the original presentation, and added content addressing the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement.  “Chimborazo” was comprised of improvised dance (featuring Meoleaeke A. Jones), improvised soundscapes, and new media, and “The American Way (Hindsight is 2020)” featured  improvised dance (featuring Meoleaeke A. Jones, Kevin Lamarr Jones, and Christine Catherine Wyatt), improvised soundscapes, new media, and theatrical staging.

 

As an educator, Victor Haskins produces educational materials and conducts masterclasses and workshops.  He teaches trumpet, improvisation, and the Jazz Ensemble at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA.  Previously, Victor created and directed the In-School Jazz Ensemble for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. from 2014-2020, and served on the faculty of the inaugural Izmir International Jazz Camp in Izmir, Turkey. Haskins has given educational presentations at institutions such as the Jazz Education Network Conference, the University of Georgia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Royal Academy of Music (England), Conservatoir Nadia et Lili Boulanger (France), the University of Richmond, Sweet Briar College, TEDxVCU, and TEDxLizardCreek, amongst others.

 

As a featured soloist and bandleader, Victor has been featured at the Henrico, Richmond, Elkhart, and Apex Jazz Festivals, the Kennedy Center REACH Opening Festival, the Richmond 2nd Street and East End Festivals, the Festival of New Trumpet Music (NYC), the Winter Blues Jazz Fest (Williamsburg, VA), and the Christopher Newport University Trumpet Festival. He has performed in venues such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Millennium Stage (Washington, D.C.), the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts (Richmond, VA), the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art (Richmond, VA), the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Ewell Hall (Williamsburg, VA), the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Baltimore, MD), the Jazz Gallery (NYC), iBeam (NYC), Résonance Café (Montreal, CA), Diese Onze (Montreal, CA), Snug Harbor (New Orleans, LA), the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa), and Teatro SESI Rio Vermelho (Salvador, Bahia, BR), amongst others. In addition, some of Victor's activities are supported by grants from Richmond CultureWorks, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the National Endowment of the Arts.

 

Victor Haskins endorses Eclipse Instruments (the creator of Victor’s signature custom black cornet), and Denis Wick Products (mouthpieces and mutes).

 

To hear Victor’s albums, know when he will perform live, learn more about his latest projects, watch videos, access educational materials, sign up for his email list, and more, please visit www.victorhaskins.com.

Press Quotes

Press quotes about Victor's album The Truth:

 

“The Truth…could not have a more apt title. This is music: thoughtful, passionate, skillful, contemplative, life itself is contained within the set. Isn’t that what we would hope our music to be? The reflection of our lives?...In listening to The Truth…, I often found myself transported to a place where the only consideration at the time was the music and its emotive effect on my psyche.”

 

-Grown Folks Music (Ivan Orr)

 

“…Haskins possesses marvelous chops, great technical ability, savvy horn-sense and a flowing ease of execution that allows him to explore exciting, rhythmically unique improvised lines that hint of Woody Shaw. His trumpet sound is full, resonant and highly attractive across the range of horn…Haskins' improvised lines are filled with "flow-juice" and they spark rhythmic nuggets which he quickly and effectively develops.”

 

- All About Jazz (Nicholas F. Mondello)

 

When listening to most musicians, I hear the same licks and worn out patterns but in Mr. Haskins case, he seems to be free to reach down into his deepest areas to bring out new and refreshing ideas long overdue on our musical scene. Mr. Haskins seems to be fused mentally, as well as physically, with his instrument to produce pure musical creativity.

 

- The Trumpet Blog (Bruce Chidester)

 

Press quotes about Victor's album Showing Up:

 

“Since he burst onto the scene, Victor Haskins has developed a robust reputation as a modern-day jazz storyteller. His utterly sincere approach to his art is in the highest jazz tradition of exploration and innovation. With Showing Up, Haskins has taken his message to yet another higher level. 

The album, Haskins' second, presents his "Skein"—comprised of himself acoustically and electro-enhanced, a bassist and percussionist—delivering ten highly intelligent, textured tracks. Each presents its own eclectic musical poetry. Haskins is genie-like here, granting listeners stimulating mind-colors and both emotional range and depth via his original compositions. This is music for introspection and involvement.”

 

- All About Jazz (Nicholas F. Mondello)

“While wordless, Haskins' songs are like short stories, and in this case the narrative is clear, as the music moves from gentle awareness to full engagement…Haskins has a strong individual voice, but it is too unpredictable to have set into a brandable “style.”

Each of the songs has its own narrative logic and they are sequenced in a way that contrasts their varying moods and tempos. (Not that some of the songs are not themselves constructed of contrasting sections.) The reflective march tempos of “Reliving the Past” are followed by the acceleration/decelerations of “Swift” and then the raucous Herbie Hancock Headhunters strut of “Five in the Pocket.”

There are no passengers in a trio recording. With so few players, every player’s part must work as foreground. While Haskins has the flashiest role, the success of the record depends equally on the adept, subtle, and unpredictable drumming of Tony Martucci. Randall Pharr’s basslines are so forward in the mix as be the second melodic lead."

-Style Weekly (Peter McElhinney)

Press quotes about Victor's album Ikigai:

Haskins possesses a gorgeous, velvet tone plus the creative smarts and playing technique to pull this kind of extended format off. His improvisations are brilliant in that they are as elegantly simple as they are uniquely complex. His choice of instruments -the cornet -and its more mellow sound play well into what Haskins delivers. His EVI chops and electronics add a haunting dimension to "Me vs. Me" and, later, on "Discernment." Haskins' efforts across the session engage and foster more "free" improvisations and intra- group communication.

The horn, bass and drums ensemble allows significant interplay between the leader and his fine cohorts. The lack of a piano or guitar frees Haskins, Pharr, and Martucci to brilliantly engage in highly sophisticated and complex interchanges. Pharr and Martucci are excellent improvisers always in "conjunction" with the leader.

Ikigai is an absorbing and involving experience. While completely unique, savvy listeners will certainly hear distant reflections of {{Miles Davis]} in his later, "electric" period. With Ikigai Haskins continues his masterful journey—and life's purpose, perhaps -in exploring and delivering musical worlds of wonder.

All About Jazz (Nicholas F. Mondello)

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