Godwin was one of the six fellows selected to be in the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz Performance, a full-scholarship graduate-level program at Loyola University New Orleans, where, under the artistic direction of Terence Blanchard, he and his colleagues honed their skills at performing, teaching and composing. They gave concerts, clinics and private lessons in Louisiana, the Mississippi gulf coast as well as around the globe including, at the Basilicata per New Orleans Jazz festival in Matera Italy and in Beijing, China. Through the Institute, Godwin has studied and performed with Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Jack Dejohnette, Jimmy Heath, Barry Harris, David Baker, Emeline Michel, Danilo Perez, John Scofield, Jeff “Tain” Watts, John Patitucci, Steve Coleman, Dick Oatts, Jason Moran, Nicholas Payton, Don Sickler, Chris Potter, and artistic director Terence Blanchard. While in the Institute, Godwin was fortunate to study composition privately with the legendary composer, pianist and New Orleans native Roger Dickerson. Godwin also had the opportunity to play and record with world-renowned clarinetist Dr. Michael White. His playing is featured on Dr. Michael White’s latest recording Adventures in New Orleans- Part 1 released on Basin Street Records.
As an undergraduate Godwin studied music education and received his degree in Professional Music with an emphasis on education at Berklee College of Music. While at Berklee, Godwin had the opportunity to perform and record with Terri Lynn Carrington, Cindy Blackman, Ralph Peterson Jr., Delfeayo Marsalis, Phillip Bailey, Gloria Estefan, and Billy Preston. Godwin studied with Frank Tiberi, Jim Ogdren, George Garzone, Joe Lovano, Ed Tomassi, Dave Santoro, Hal Crook, Bill Pierce, Herb Pomeroy among others. Godwin was the recipient of the Elvin Jones award and was selected by the college to perform at numerous music venues and festivals worldwide including: the JVC Festival (New York), Blue Note (New York), Monterey Jazz Festival (California), Trinidad and Tobago Steelpan Jazz Festival, Nancy Jazz Pulsation (France), ArtSpring Performing Arts Center (Salt Spring Island, British Columbia), Sky Church – Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum (Seattle), LV’s Uptown (Portland, Oregon), San Jose Jazz Festival (California).
While living in Boston, Godwin was selected to be in the legendary Boston ensemble, The Either/Orchestra. He has toured and recorded with the band, including with Ethiopian legends, Mulatu Astatke, Mahmoud Ahmed, Getachew Mekurya and Alemayehu Eshete. Venues performed include: Lincoln Center Out of Doors, The Barbican (UK) Glastonbury Festival (UK) What is Classical Festival (Toronto) Festival of World Cultures (Ireland) Jazz and Ribs Festival (Columbus) Iridium (NYC), Regattabar (Boston), Historic Sweets Ballroom (Oakland), Sanders Theatre (Boston) Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston) and Denver University (Colorado).
In addition, Godwin has performed as a sideman, guest soloist and has conducted clinics and master classes worldwide. As an educator, humanitarian and ambassador, Godwin has traveled from Haiti, Mexico, Costa Rica, to China to help promote cross-cultural understanding and introduce thousands to America’s indigenous art form, through public concerts, master classes and jam sessions. Godwin has worked as a clinician at several music camps, including the Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Camp, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts Camp, and the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra Summer Music Camp & Festival.
Godwin attended Bassick high School in Bridgeport, Connecticut and graduated with honors in 2003. During his junior year of high school, Godwin Louis through the help of his mentors Mr. John Pearson, Dr. Dwight Berry, Rev. Timothy Howard and Walters A.M.E Zion Church, began studying privately with Mr. Herbert Wilson, a professional musician, educator and behavior analyst. Then for the young Godwin it was a life changing moment, as he found in Mr. Wilson the mentor he needed to begin a music career.
By the end of his junior year, Godwin was selected as a member of the Connecticut All State Jazz Ensemble, opened for Jimmy Heath, and started performing and recording as a sideman all over the tri-state area (CT-NY-MA). Godwin attended Litchfield Jazz Camp in Connecticut, where he had the opportunity to study with Ray Vega, Don Braden, Dave Santoro, Steve Wilson and John Benitez.
During his senior of high school, Godwin had the privilege to study with Latin jazz icons, Arturo O’farrill and Andy Gonzalez. In June 2003, Godwin was the recipient of the Grace Norton Dudley Music Scholarship, a full scholarship to study at any colleges in the country.
In May 2011, Godwin and his Thelonious Monk Institute fellows recorded an album, “Side Angles” to be released in the spring of 2012 under the band name “Junto 6”. It features 12 original compositions, two by each members of the band. The cd features, Godwin on alto saxophone, Billy Buss on trumpet, Matt Marantz on tenor saxophone, Victor Gould on piano, Hogyu Hwang on bass and Nicholas Falk on drums.
Haitianbeatz had the opportunity to conduct a very informative interview with Godwin:
HB- Taking a step back, where did you grow up?
GL- I grew up in New York, Connecticut, Haiti, Massachusetts, Louisiana.
HB- Can you tell our readers about your musical upbringing.
GL- I started playing the piano at the age of 5. Picked up the saxophone at the age of 9. Followed by the bass at the age of 10. The saxophone was my favorite, so I stuck with the saxophone.
HB- Did you come from a musical family?
GL- Yes, I grew up in a very musical household and family. My father, Rev. Marcel Louis is a pastor, educator, composer, musician etc, my brother Rex Louis is an excellent pianist, minister of music for his church, in Connecticut my cousin Jude Pierre is a first-class trumpeter, composer, pianist, producer etc, my uncle Robert “Magic” Saint-Fleur is an iconic guitarist, who actually introduced me to jazz. In addition, I have a lot of cousins, aunts and uncles that are instrumentalists, singers, songwriters, composers etc.
HB- What was your first big breakthrough as a musician?
GL- My first big breakthrough I’d say was receiving a full scholarship from the estate of Grace Norton Dudley to study music at any institution in the world.
HB- Who are some of your music heroes?
GL- My father Rev. Marcel Louis, my brother Rex Louis, my uncle Robert “Magic” Saint Fleur. My mentors: John Pearson, Rev. Dr. Dwight Berry, Herb Wilson, Dave Santoro, Hal Crook, Terence Blanchard, Roger Dickerson. The living legends: Hermeto Pascoal, Kirk Whalum, Samba Zao. The icons in heaven: Charlie Parker, Ludovic Lamothe, Ornette Coleman, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong, Paul Bley... Just to name a few.
HB- What is one thing you have learned being a part of the music business for so many years?
GL- The same thing needed in life. Patience, peace, faith, love (God).
HB- What memories from your early years playing are you drawn back to again and again?
GL- Living in Haiti (around 1995-96)I was performing at a revival, and a pastor by the name of Eddy (from Carrefour, forgot his last name...) prayed over me and my saxophone. From then on, the blessings haven't stopped (Thank you God, thank you pastor Eddy).
HB- What exercises do you employ as part of your practicing?
GL-My exercises are solely saxophone maintenance exercises, long-tones, breathing exercises, technical studies...
HB- What are you currently focusing on in your career?
GL- Right now, I am focused on finishing my debut record as a leader this year and getting it out to the world (God willing). Look out for it!
HB- - You are just returning from Haiti from the International Jazz Festival of Port-au-Prince, not the most popular music of Haiti, what needs to be done to advance the cause of jazz in Haiti?
GL-- Nothing needs to be done, just a quick historical reminder. “Jazz” started in Haiti in 1791. The Haitian people (or Africans brought to the new world in general) always need reminders. Haitians need to be reminded that America’s premier indigenous art form labeled as “jazz” started in Haiti, was transported to New Orleans from Haiti between 1791-1804, met with Mississippi Delta culture, evolved into America’s gift to the world. Vocalist Pauline Jean, myself and graphic designer Whittline Jean-Paillant are currently working on a book on the subject matter. Look out for it. We've done research all over the world about the subject matter. Or if you would like to know more about it, contact us. We currently do presentations about the subject matter. So, if you'd like to invite us to your institutions, churches, banquets, TV, radio stations etc. don't hesitate to contact myself, Pauline, or Whittline.
HB- You performed at the International Jazz Festival of PAP, how was the performance?
GL- We performed mostly original compositions based on who we all are (“Haitian-Americans”). And also, music from some of our upcoming (or already released in Jean Caze’s case) albums.
HB- If one of our readers would like to know more about jazz but, album-wise, don't know where to start. What 5 jazz albums you would recommend he/she starts with?
GL- Louis Armstrong, “The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings” (Sony, 2006; tracks recorded 1925-29).
- Charlie Parker, “Bird: The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve” (Polygram, 1988; tracks recorded 1946-54).
- Billie Holiday, “Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles” (Sony, 2007; tracks recorded 1933-44).
- John Coltrane, “A Love Supreme” (Impulse!, 1964).
- (bonus) The Haitian drummer, by Haitian legendary drummer Ti Roro.
HB- What is the best advice you have ever received for music and for life in general?
GL-- “Don't worry, you'll get your chance” –Terence Blanchard
"Life is about who you aren't. Explore who you aren't” –Ornette Coleman
HB- Can you summarize your feelings about how your career has evolved?
GL- My career is evolving beautifully. I am thankful for the process and for grace.
HB- If a reader wanted to see you perform or get your music, where should they go?
GL- Godwinlouis.com. Or better yet, on social media Facebook or Instagram. Sometimes, I post gigs on my social media pages or my website.
HB- Anything you wanted to add, I did not ask?
GL- Thank you Haitianbeatz.com for taking the time to interview me. For more questions, thoughts or concerns, you know where to find me. Thanks again.