We ask the same 10 questions to very different members of Charleston’s diverse community. This week, we chat with local jazz musician Charlton Singleton.
If you keep with the local cultural scene, you may recognize Charlton Singleton. One of the Holy City’s treasures, he’s the bandleader of Charleston Jazz Orchestra and Artist in Residence at the Charleston Gaillard Center — among many other things. We recently had the opportunity to get a little more acquainted with the prolific musician as part of our new ‘10 Questions With’ series, a profile series featuring interviews with intriguing members of the local community. We hope you enjoy!
If you’re not from Charleston originally, where are you from and when did you relocate here?
I am from Awendaw. I tell people that all of the time that Awendaw is about 14 miles going north of Charleston on Hwy 17. You will pass through it on your way to McClellanville, Georgetown, Myrtle Beach.
Did you go to college, and if so, where?
Yes! I graduated from South Carolina State University in 1994 with a BA Music Performance. Being at SC State was the best time of my life.
Occupation, employer, and what your role entails.
The short answer is that I am a Musician/Entertainer…
I am self-employed as a freelancing musician. I perform, compose, arrange, record…
I am the Artist In Residence at the Gaillard Center. This position allows me to go out to schools in the Tri-County area and be a resource to students and teachers. I talk with students in grades K-12 (and some in college) about everything from our rich history of music here in the Lowcountry to the many different careers in music.
I am the Artistic Director/Bandleader of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra. We have been around for eight years now and we have had tremendous support from the community. We have a season of shows with season ticket holders. All of the shows have a theme, and we perform in the historic Charleston Music Hall.
I am the organist and choir director at St. Patrick Catholic Church, which is located Downtown. I have been playing there since 1995 (although I was away touring for about four years and then came back). My first performance was at my dad’s church, Mt. Zion AME Church in Davis Station, SC. With that said, I am EXTREMELY comfortable at church.
How does your company and/or your role affect the community.
Hmmm…I like to think of myself as just an entertainer. However, I also like to educate and enlighten as many people as I can. My wife will tell you that I’m just a big ham! LOL. I love it. I love to talk. I love to perform. I hope that people in the community feel good after hearing or seeing me do those things.
Favorite part of your job?
Making people feel good. It’s just that simple. I think that I have succeeded if they leave and are humming a tune, or pondering about something I said that may have been new and/or intriguing to them. The best way of knowing if I was good or not is if they invite me back or come back to see/hear me again.
What area of Charleston do you live in and why do you love it?
I actually live in North Charleston. My part of the city is actually pretty quiet. I live close enough to downtown so that it is not so bad to go to “work,” and I live far enough from downtown that it is quiet. This is how I grew up (living in Awendaw), so it is perfect.
Who’s your most-loved local venue/cultural excursion and why? (Some examples are: rock shows at the Tin Roof, the symphony, Second Sunday, First Friday art walk, Terrace theater, Charleston Museum, PURE Theater shows, anything at Charleston Music Hall, etc)
That’s a tough question. There are many venues that I have had the good fortune to have played in. The NEW Gaillard Center…The Pour House…playing at the Music Farm back in the day with my ska band, SKWZBXX (say “squeeze box”), the intimacy of The Mezz on King St. with my small group…the Charleston Music Hall has been the venue that I have performed in most as of lately. Between the Charleston Jazz Orchestra shows and the Prince Tribute shows that my funk band have done recently at the Charleston Music Hall, they have been some of the most memorable performances that I have been a part of. I almost feel as if that is my private place, but…THERE GOES THE HAM IN ME! LOL!
What’s your go-to local dining or takeout spot, and what do you like to order?
Too many places to name. My wife and I go out to eat quite a bit. However, I do like to order sushi from Shi Ki on E. Bay St. I always get two Super Crunch Rolls, House Special Roll, Seaweed Salad, and Miso Soup. The owner will tease me whenever I order or come in without Mrs. Singleton. She will sometimes just ask, “Does Mrs. Singleton know that you are eating sushi without her…?” LOL.
Favorite Charleston day-trip destination?
That’s a tough question. As much of a ham and public person as I am or try to be, when it is time to work, I equally enjoy just relaxing at home. We occasionally get to go to the Farmer’s Market, and it’s nice to walk around. We like walking on the bridge or going out to just sit and/or swing at the Waterfront Park Downtown or the park underneath the Ravenel Bridge on the Mt. Pleasant side.
If you could live anywhere in the world, other than the Lowcountry, where would that be?
That’s ANOTHER tough question. I would choose someplace that is in good driving distance or easy public transportation to a large city with a strong arts community. San Francisco has always seemed to appeal to me. I’ve only been there once, and it was an extremely short visit. Hopefully I will get back there someday soon.