Eight years ago, Emily Asher was just starting her music education career as a choir and band instructor at Ballou Junior High School in Puyallup.
It wasn’t long before she got the bug to travel to New York City and hit the big time with jazz greats like trumpeter Nicholas Payton and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon.
Asher, who plays jazz trombone, released her debut album this year titled “Dreams May Take You, with her New Orleans-flavored swing jazz band called Emily Asher’s Garden Party. The album also features Gordon.
She will begin a tour in the Seattle area Sunday, starting at The Century Ballroom, 915 E. Pine St., and rounding up Dec. 22 at The Conway Muse, 18444 Spruce St., in Conway.
“The musicians who are in this group are so versatile,” Asher said. “There isn’t any direction that I can’t take the band in.”
Asher is originally from Shoreline, north of Seattle, and she graduated from Shorewood High School in 1998. She discovered her love for music at the Burton Music Camp on Vashon Island, where she started out when she was 12 and became a camp counselor and teacher when she was 17.
Asher went to the University of Washington and completed a triple major with bachelor of arts and bachelor of music degrees in music education, and a bachelor of music degree in jazz studies.
“In high school, I thought I would move east to study music,” she said. “I knew that was my natural calling. I think I sort of put that in the back of my mind while I was studying music and pursuing my undergrad at UW.”
Asher’s father is a music educator, and he also played trombone when he was in high school and college.
“Since I was 6 or 7, I knew I wanted to play trombone,” Asher said. “We had one at the house. When I was little, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I started forming that identity.”
Asher said the trombone is the one instrument that is “closest to the human voice.”
“It is really expressive,” she said. “There are no keys or valves. You can do virtually anything in a song-like style. It’s a real communicative instrument.”
After she worked as a paraprofessional and taught jazz band at Newport High School in Bellevue, Asher was at Ballou from 2004-07.
“I taught the concert band and jazz band, and, in my first year, co-taught choir with Dan Davison,” Asher said.
Davison still teaches choir at Ballou and is in his 34th year in the Puyallup School District.
“From Day 1, Emily was a real go-getter,” Davison said. “She was full of energy and confidence. She had very good trombone skills and very good jazz skills. Her jazz skills were good enough where we she actually recorded some vocal parts for some recordings I had done.”
Although Davison said it was sad to see Asher leave to pursue her dreams in New York, he added he’s happy she’s accomplishing her goals to perform.
“I knew that Emily wanted to pursue a career in New York,” Davison said. “And it sounds like she has been successful.”
Asher said one of her long-term goals with her band is to visit schools across the country and to bring her New Orleans-style jazz to perform clinics for aspiring students.
“This style of music is simply fun to play,” she said. “It is appealing to an enormous audience. It is joyful, and it has a really broad appeal.”
• 9 p.m. to midnight Sunday, The Century Ballroom, 915 E. Pine St., $15 for all ages
• 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Monday, Tula’s Jazz Club, 2214 2nd Ave., $15 general, $8 students. All ages until 10 p.m.
• 7 p.m. Tuesday, Boxley’s, 101 W. North Bend Way, North Bend, all ages.
• 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19, The Royal Room, 5000 Rainier Ave. S. All ages until 10 p.m.
• 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 22, The Conway Muse, 18444 Spruce St., Conway, $15 for all ages.
Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.