Sax player spreads love of music to southeast Queens

Ashley Keiko Chambers, a jazz saxophonist and classical pianist, is putting her degree in Music and Music Education to good use.
Photo by Naeisha Rose
By Naeisha Rose

Ashley Keiko Chambers, a jazz saxophonist and classical pianist, is going to live out her dream to have space for a full-fledged music school in Queens Village.

At just 24, Chambers, who obtained her degree in Music and Music Education at the prestigious Teacher’s College, Columbia University, could have simply pursued a career in music for herself after performing for the likes of Steve Harvey, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and at several R&B, pop and hip-hop music festivals.

Instead, she will spread her love of music to the rest of southeast Queens.

“I just want to give back to the community that I’m a part of,” Chambers said. “I just know that in my neighborhood and in my community that there is just not that many opportunities for music or music education and a lot of the schools don’t have music programs.”

According to the Annual Arts in School Report (2014-2015), only 38 percent of elementary schools provide art instruction in New York.

“The school right across from my parents’ martial arts studio, they don’t have a music arts program at all,” Chambers said.

A representative at PS 36 confirmed that there is no music program at the school.

Before Chambers had her own space for a music school, she used a small spare room at her parents’ gym, Zen Masters Martial Arts.

For seven years she taught only classical piano, but with the new space she will be able to teach a full range of musical styles and instruments, thanks to meeting her fund-raising goals through Kickstarter.

“We surpassed our fund-raising goals, so that was really exciting. We started construction already and we hope to be open by May or June,” Chambers said.

With a goal of $10,000, she raised an additional $3,000 within the late January to February timeline she was given.

“Kickstarter is all or nothing. So if you don’t hit that goal you don’t get anything at all. I was so ecstatic that we reached the goal. When we reached, it there were six days left,” Chambers said.

With the new space Chambers will be able to give her 30 students a bigger space to practice, and through the fund-raiser she has already signed up new students. She will also be able to conduct ensembles, provide lessons for adults and teach private lessons now that she has attracted 20 instructors from varying disciplines to her school.

“We’ve been expanding, and that is one of the reasons I wanted to move. We are outgrowing the space,” Chambers said. “I want to do instruments from every category — string instruments like violin and guitar. I want to do woodwinds, which is like saxophone and flutes. Percussion, like the drums and brass like the trumpet.”

Within the sound-proof rooms, Chambers and her instructors will teach classical, jazz, pop, hip-hop and R&B music.

“I also want to do music technology, because that is where a lot of the music is going nowadays,” Chambers said. “I want the children and adults to be able to perform and do competitions. That is definitely a huge goal that I have.”

Although she is nervous about going it alone as a businesswoman without having her parents nearby, Chambers is prepared for the challenge, thanks to what they have taught her.

“I’ve really just been learning through their experience and their example. One big key that I learned from my mom is organization and how important that is,” she said. “I see myself having a music school that can do it all.”

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