The Pulse: Endea Owens on Her Burgeoning Career, and How Music Can Be Sustaining
Affectionately known as "Bass Bae," Endea Owens is on the precipice of greatness, not only as a musician but also as a philanthropist.
For this installment of The Pulse, I caught up virtually with Owens in her dressing room after a rehearsal with the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. We talked about her burgeoning career as a composer and performer; navigating male-dominated spaces as an African American woman musician; and her personal mission to feed and entertain the masses. (Her music and story is featured in a recent episode of Jazz Night in America.)
Oftentimes finding herself as the only woman in the band, Owens holds fast to her purpose when confronted with challenging situations. When denied opportunities, she creates her own. In navigating an industry and genre traditionally dominated by men, she surrounds herself with those that support and affirm her.
It was her mentor, Marcus Belgrave, that hired Endea on her first gig as a kid in the YouthVille Detroit music program, where she was first exposed to jazz. She credits her teacher at Detroit School of Arts, Rodney Whitaker, with showing her how to play the bass correctly. Fellow Detroit native Marion Hayden also influenced a young Endea through her work with Straight Ahead, recommending her for her very first tour at Spellman College.
She went on to graduate from Juilliard, and in 2019 Wynton Marsalis selected her as one of Lincoln Center's emerging artists, composing a four-part suite dedicated to the life of Ida B. Wells for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Now, she is humbled to call the legendary Ron Carter an advisor. All these people believed in and continue to support her as she reaches for the next level on her path.
The Community Cookout is an initiative Owens knew she had to create. Growing up in Detroit, she and her mom often benefitted from free community programs where they could find nourishment. She knows how it feels to be hungry and gives back because it was the community that fed her in her time of need. She always knew she wanted to give back and it was only a matter of time before she would be able to. Now her Community Cookout initiative has fed hundreds of people for an entire year, all while inspiring young people to learn more about jazz. She also uses the program as a vessel for bringing jazz back to Harlem. Endea funds the program with 90% of her own money, paying the musicians a fair wage and supporting local restaurants where she offers restaurant quality meals to the masses. She is using her musical powers for good.
On top of her Community Cookout work, Endea stayed busy during the pandemic lending her basslines for to soundtrack to the movie Judas and the Black Messiah. She landed the cover of The Walker's magazine, was featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Billboard, and is now composing music for the Pyer Moss runway show for Paris Fashion Week. Endea is clearly on a rocket ship to stardom.