Born in Miami, FL, Haitian-American Claudens Louis’ love for education has led him to
conducting clinics and masterclasses at several universities and music programs around the world as a teaching artist. He is successfully serving students in the very community he grew up in as the jazz director at the Miami Arts Charter School.
As a performing artist, Louis’ experience includes performing in different countries as an American Music Ambassador for the U.S. Department of Educational and Cultural Affairs performing and conducting masterclasses in collaboration with US Embassies in Haiti, Costa Rica, Mexico, Latvia, Dushanbe, Tajikistan , and Tanzania. Louis has also performed with stellar legendary artists including 5-time Grammy Award winner Shaun Martin of Snarky Puppy, the Snarky Puppy horn-section, Jason Derulo, Wyclef Jean, Steffon Harris, Warren Wolf, Drew Tucker, Black Violin, Post Modern Jukebox’s Sarah Reich and Prince’s MonoNeon, to name a few. He has been touring the globe with a number of these legendary artists, but also as a
bandleader with his own original project, The CieL Experience. He continues to impress audiences around the world with his high–energy performances, distinct styles of improvisation, and original compositions.
What inspired your start into music?
What inspired me to start playing music was all of the amazing music that surrounded me at a very young age. Growing up in Miami, where so many cultures collide, I had the opportunity to experience the music of many islands and countries that caught my attention early on. My biggest influences that made me fall in love with music were my dad’s vinyl records and tapes, which consisted of a wide range of different artists and genres such as Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, and many traditional Haitian artists like Tabou Combo, Skah Shah, and Les Frères Dejean, to name a few. Later on, when I got to high school, I heard the unique saxophone sounds of Dexter Gordon and Coleman Hawkins, and that’s when I fell in love with Black American music and the art of improvisation. So, I got to work on studying and playing the music.
If you could describe your musical sound in five words, what would they be and why?
Cinematic, emotional, energetic, soulful, and versatile are words that describe the CieL Experience’s sound. Our music is cinematic because every composition reflects a real-life experience from my own life. It’s emotional because it takes listeners on a journey, each melody combined with harmonies that evoke deep emotions. All our songs are intentional; for example, if they are happy, they are genuinely joyful, and when they are sad, they convey true sorrow. When we sing about love, everyone in the band mentally connects with that specific feeling and emotion, and it shows in our performance and approach to every tune. All the material we draw from for composing is deeply personal and authentic, so audiences can always feel that emotion when we play. Due to my deep cultural influences, our band can perform a wide range of genres with respect and integrity to the culture. Whether in recordings or live performances, our sound truly offers an unforgettable experience.
You are what the world considers a teaching artist, can you share a little about what you do?
As a teaching artist, I have worked in many schools in South Florida. Currently, I am the jazz instructor at the Miami Arts Charter School, where I focus on jazz performance, executing the style, jazz theory, and jazz history. I have also provided guidance on how to navigate the music business and realistically approach a career in music. Additionally, I have performed, taught masterclasses, and conducted clinics as a Jazz Ambassador in collaboration with the US Department of Educational & Cultural Affairs, working with US Embassies in Haiti, Costa Rica, Mexico, Latvia, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and Tanzania.
You often travel the world teaching and performing, can you share how these experiences impact your music and creativity?
Traveling the world to teach and perform has transformed my perspective on music and its unifying power, transcending differences in language, appearance, and social status. In foreign countries, music always brings people together, and this has given me a profound appreciation for humanity and the understanding that my music touches people from diverse backgrounds. It deepens my gratitude for every note I play, record, and include in a composition.
Tell us about your latest project?
My latest project, titled “Influences,” has been in the works for about five years. This project highlights all the events, people, and music that have shaped my life up to this point. “Influences” was recorded with my collective, The CieL Experience, featuring Elijah Gee on keys, Chris Patsis on bass, Jephthe Jean-Charles on drums, and Jose Romero on trumpet. The music is eclectic, making it challenging to fit into a specific genre box. It can be described as jazz/world fusion, but ultimately, it’s just music for everyone. Each collective member contributed to the creative and compositional process, resulting in a beautiful team effort that we believe listeners will thoroughly enjoy.
What message do you hope listeners take away from your platform?
I aspire for listeners to visit my platform and feel inspired, regardless of their backgrounds or life experiences. I want them to recognize that they can take their experiences and create something positive for themselves and others. It’s important for people to see the value of hard work, consistency, and leading with love. As an artist, I genuinely feel that I was born to serve others with my talents, and I have a deep love for community. I want people to leave my platform and interactions feeling happy and inspired, whether they hear my music or simply spend time in my presence.
What is next for you, where do you see your platform in the next 2-3 years?
What’s next for me is completing this album and taking it on tour. I would love to share this music overseas in Europe and embark on a US tour to explore cities I haven’t yet visited with my collective. Additionally, I believe this music tells my story, making it a great soundtrack for motion pictures. I’d love to see my music placed in films and TV shows. My involvement in the community to promote music education and collaboration across different arts disciplines in Miami will continue, possibly in my own multi-purpose building. I will persist in working toward my goals and savoring the journey one day at a time.
Connect with Claudens Louis