Wendell Sneed has toured with Wilson Pickett, Etta James, The Chi-Lites and played in Dallas funk band the Soul Seven, but more recently, he's been working with the Dallas Museum of Art, and hosts Jazz in the Atrium, their long-running Thursday Night Live program.
Before he came on, the music was largely classical, mostly string ensembles. When the last producer moved on, he stepped up and pitched a live jazz series. The DMA had concerns, but Sneed won them over.
I understand music wasn't your pursuit of choice in school. Originally, I was intending to be an athlete. Football, to be exact. But after being struck by a car in '59, I was unable to continue in that direction. Having band as an elective in school, I chose to stay with that. I was lucky enough to have a band director who was a drummer. He mentored me on that instrument, and after hearing Art Blakey play on an album, I decided to study percussion and jazz for my profession and future. I majored in music and percussion as my major instrument in college.
You've toured with some sizable names. Who did you play with locally? I've had the fortune to play with some of the Dallas' jazz and R&B icons: John Hurdee, Buster Smith, James Clay, Roger Boykin, Marchel Ivery, Al "TNT" Bragg, Milton Thomas, Johnny Taylor and ZZ Hill. I toured with Wilson Pickett, Toussaint McCall, Etta James, The "Honey" Comb, Soul Children and Chi-Lites.
Who do you credit for helping to get your show off the ground? The support of the jazz community musicians. The likes of Marchel Ivery, Sandra Kaye, Roger Boykin, Steve Sonday, John Adams, Kelly Durbin and others appearing at Jazz in the Atrium give the program a type of legitimacy among fans and musicians alike.
A colleague of yours, Damon K. Clark, was recently featured here. He made a great point about musicians deserving a living wage. Do you have more to say? I think the musicians who play jazz and or pop music in the town are underrepresented in the areas of dealing with club owners and promoters, with salary and various other issues. The union gives no support to non-symphony or theatrical musicians. I'd like to see that changed, so they can make decent living.