written by Jack McCray. photo by Reese Moore
Charlton Singleton was born on January 7, 1971, the youngest of the three children of the Rev. Charles and Jeanette Singleton, both in education, of Awendaw, South Carolina. He is a true child of the Lowcountry in that he grew up in a close-knit village and was heavily influenced by the forces he was exposed to in his community’s church, Greater Zion AME Church where his late grandfather, Edward Singleton, also known to everyone there as Big Daddy, was a stalwart member and spiritual leader.
Charlton attended Mamie P. Whitesides Elementary, Laing Middle and Wando High schools. He went on to attend the Berklee College of Music and South Carolina State College from which he graduated in 1994 with a degree in music performance.
His life has always been awash in music. It was always present in his home growing up. His grandfather sat him on his knee and sang to him, just like he did his other 54 grandchildren. Once again, Charlton is the youngest.
“It was the ‘Jump, Baby Jump Song’,” he told writer Jack McCray. “Ask anyone of my relatives that are close to my age or older if they remember that, and they WILL start singing it.”
By the time he was in middle school, he was a multi-instrumentalist. He had mastered the piano, violin, and cello and trumpet, his primary instrument today.
Charlton has emerged in the last several years as the face of jazz performance in the Lowcountry. After long stints in various small ensembles playing many styles of popular music, he became conductor and artistic director of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, a 20-piece aggregation at the vanguard of jazz in South Carolina today that arose from the prototypical Charlton Singleton Orchestra in March of 2008.
He enjoys tremendous stature and fame as a result. His likeness is emblazoned on promotional materials everywhere all the time and he is among the most widely covered performers by media outlets. His high energy, music-in-motion image graced the cover of Charleston Magazine’s November issue, its first-ever edition devoted to music.
Thousands have seen him perform in churches, concert halls, clubs, on recordings and in films where he delights them with a magical, versatile artistry that dazzles like a diamond in the sun.
He is also a prominent educator, providing private lessons and having taught in local school districts where his reputation is legendary.
Charlton’s presence, on and off the stage, is luminescent. It shines brightly everywhere, all the time.
He lives in North Charleston with his wife, Mary Jo, and two children Shalamar Boyd and D’Marcus Boyd.
He is a board member of Jazz Artists of Charleston where he serves as vice president. No other individual has done more in the Lowcountry recently than Charlton to further the history and legacy of jazz music in South Carolina.
His work, the light of his life, burnishes the lives of all who encounter him and it appears to be poised to go on forever.
Playing upon natural rhythm and a lifelong passion for music, Charleston Jazz Orchestra artistic director Charlton Singleton has upped the tempo of both modern and traditional jazz in the Lowcountry … Read More
Show me someone who says that there isn’t any good live music in Charleston, and I will show you someone who just isn’t looking hard enough. Last weekend, the music options were wide open. One could have taken in the Charleston Symphony… Read more
Charlton Singleton’s love affair with music has lasted, well, a lifetime. The sheet notes, please: Age 3, he would watch his brother and sister taking piano lessons, picking out notes to play. He studied organ and violin, excelling at piano… Read More
To say Charlton Singleton is a musician is basically the same as saying that an alligator is a reptile or that the sea is salty. I truly believe that if one were to look at Singleton’s DNA under a microscope, one would see actual musical notes… Read More
I had the time of my life on Saturday. A big band I founded and produce had a rehearsal for a gig this Saturday (April 4) and despite fatigue, high pollen levels and a busy week coming up, I took Saturday morning to be with the Charleston Jazz… Read More
“To say Charlton Singleton is a musician is basically the same as saying that an alligator is a reptile or that the sea is salty. I truly believe that if one were to look at Singleton’s DNA under a microscope, one would see actual musical notes connecting the strands together. ”
Devin Grant – The Post and Courier
“Charlton is a talented trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader cut from the same cloth as Dizzy Gillespie, Thad Jones, Slide Hampton, and Frank Foster.”
Jimmy Heath (jazz icon, saxophonist, composer, arranger) – Charleston Magazine
“Just watching him conduct and play piano and trumpet draws you in and captivates you. He has the ability to turn a non-jazz person into an enthusiast in a single concert.”
Randi Weinstein (CJO Patron) – Charleston Magazine
“Singleton’s mature performance reaches new peaks. His technique and range are those of a thoughtful musician.”
T. Ballard Lesemann – Charleston City Paper
“He is an amazing player, but his composition skills are incredible.”
Cyrus Chestnut (jazz pianist) – The Post and Courier