Wynton Grant's Drive To Be Excellent Is Paying Off As One of LA's Hottest Violinists
This violinist talks about his inner drive to
produce top quality music, branching out from
the classical scene, and living his dream in Los Angeles.
Wynton Grant in a violinist you want to know. Originally from Wyoming, Wynton has studied his way through the Yale School of Music, Lynn Conservatory and, most recently, the University of Southern California. He can be heard playing on TV for Sabrina Claudio, at an MTV Unplugged session with Shawn Mendes, on tour across Europe with Grammy-winning artist Rostam, and even in Kaleidascope, LA's conductor-less orchestra. Wynton's passion for real estate investment has helped him live out his dreams as an artist in Los Angeles, where he is already being met with huge success. For the dreamers out there: Wynton is proof that when hard work meets opportunity and great personality, your dreams can become your reality.
&: How did you get started in music?
wg: I’m originally from Sheridan, WY and spent the first 18 years of my life there. Through the schools, they offered this program where you could do an elective course, so you could do digital keyboard or art or violin. I had no clue what a violin was and I remember asking my mom and she gave me this answer, “it’s this little musical box thing with some strings.” And I was like alright, I’ll do it! Showed a little bit of talent and pretty quickly after started taking private lessons within the first month or so. I was really lucky, there happened to be a guy in my town who is a Juilliard grad and had a career as a musician. He taught the course and laid the foundation. I then started going out of state on the weekends to Billings, MT for my lessons for 9 or 10 years. So shout out to my parents because obviously I couldn’t drive for most of that time.
Yay, violin parents!
You've been involved in a lot lately. What do you look for when taking a project or gig?
I just moved to LA eleven months ago and am just stoked to be involved in anything. I’ve gotten opportunities this year that have been great. But I’m definitely still at a point in my career where I will take a gig. That being said, there’s obviously some artists and projects that I’m more excited to be involved with than others.
The things I’m most excited about are the pop artists. It’s the music that I listen to and it’s the biggest opportunities, biggest stages, and a lot of times the best pay.
There have also been some people who hit me up who want some strings on their project. If I have the time, I’m happy to do that. I’m always happy to collaborate and am trying to do cool stuff with people.
What brought you to LA?
A life-long dream! Straight up, this is the only place I’ve wanted to be. As I said, I grew up in Wyoming and for most of my time growing up, I wanted to be an actor or director. I did a lot of theater/musical theater and as I got older, started doing music. In high school, music became more of a serious thing and it came to the point where I had to make a decision.
My biggest heroes are Time for Three. They are so cool - three dudes who are Curtis grads. I saw them one summer at Indiana University's Summer String Academy. Long story short, they played cool stuff and I was like, these people are doing really cool things. So that summer was a realization where I was like ok, if music is really something that I like doing, there are other avenues of success that are within this field that are not strictly within the classical realm.
It was always with this idea that...seeing those guys get up on stage, I mean they all went to Curtis and just killed it, there’s nothing about their performance that you can criticize or find a flaw with. So it was always this desire that if I’m going to do music, I don’t want to be up there and have people say, it’s kind of dope but he’s not that good of a violinist. I want to be the real deal.
So that was the incentive to practice harder and go through so many years of conservatory and school.
Since being in LA, have you found it to be the place you’ve always wanted to be?
Oh for sure. This year has really been a dream come true. A lot of it’s been luck and maybe some of it is from things that have been in place for years.
I bought a house here in LA and I have a big interest in real estate. That is what funds my life here in LA. My first day in LA last year, 20 minutes after being in my house for the first time, I got a random phone call from a random number and it was Patrick Laird of Brooklyn Duo. Through a friend of a friend, he invited me to play on Shawn Mendes' MTV Unplugged recording.
And then I was able to play with Sabrina Claudio, through another friend of a friend connection. Then that same friend who I had met my third day in LA asked me to tour with Rostam in Europe for three weeks.
So you’re asking how things have been here in LA and it’s like, yes! The opportunities that I’ve been given, the pay is good, the quality of exposure is great and the ability to connect is, too. I mean, a lot of people I’ve had the chance to work for are my heroes. So yeah, LA has provided a lot of opportunities and access, which is key.
Are you currently creating the string arrangements you are playing on?
Everything that I’ve done thus far has almost exclusively been arrangements that have been done by somebody else. This whole last year has been crazy and it feels like I’m almost starting over in LA, like it’s a fresh start. I’m definitely planning on having a lot more of my own stuff out here moving forward. And hopefully we’ll be able to do the arranging thing on a higher level. Youtube and Instagram are vehicles to create a lot of opportunities for people as well. I think that’s something I expected in LA but everyday am finding it reaffirmed.
Have you found something that works for you as a string player in terms of social media?
This is a question I’m actively asking myself right now as I try to gear up my own content production cycle and schedule. Ten years ago, when I was watching and listening to music, it was exclusively through Youtube. Now, I don’t get on Youtube that often and my main platform is Instagram. Being out here in LA, Instagram is really king. I’m not on a hard schedule yet for Instagram postings but you have to post and have content.
I guess I’ve always found there’s never been a single thing I put on the web that I’ve regretted putting up. Even things I listen to and judge harshly, throwing that out has been nothing but an ego boost. Any flaws I think about, people seem to look past and they don’t even notice. Any content I’ve wanted to put out, I want to maintain a high level of excellence and even thinking of the stuff I want to do coming up, I’m trying to go out and shoot it and make it look amazing. But it’s time consumptive. And do you see enough return on your time investment? I don’t know yet.
When you came to LA, it seemed like magic happened. I’m sure it took a lot of hard work to get here and you’ve had to overcome dry seasons. What kept you motivated?
Yeah, a lot of it has been a drive. You have to be driven if you want to be a musician in 2018. Especially if you are trying to get into non-classical music as a classical musician. Being driven and understanding that opportunities exist and you have to go out and actively find them or create them yourself. Also, my community has been clutch too, especially the online communities. It’s been nice to see other people who are having similar level of success and realize you’re not alone. When I link with other people who are also trying to do maybe some unorthodox things but still underneath this larger genre of being a professional musician, that’s definitely inspiring.
I think being able to be consistent in presenting top quality music and being a good person. For pop music, it helps if you’re “dope.” You can be the sickest violinist on the planet but if you’re not the right vibe, nobody’s going to want you in the studio session or going on the tour. I’m not going to say this is more important that musicianship but I would argue that it’s hugely important to be a good person and the sort of person people want to work with.
We all see this. There are so many people who are doing more with less. They’re not as qualified as musicians and are putting out crappier quality content but they have the vibe and energy and they are capable of doing what people are looking for. The average listener doesn’t need Itzhak Perlman to play the soul out of the violin, they just want to hear Charlie Daniels rippin' it up on the fiddle and getting that energy and vibe.