Center for American Military Music Opportunities (CAMMO)
At age 13, when many boys set their sights on becoming athletes, Wall Street wolves or firemen, Brett Jazey wanted to be a professional musician. Playing in bands throughout high school, Brett was accepted into the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1991, where he spent two years honing his skills before heading to the New York City music scene to start his professional career.
Over the next eight years, he earned his musical chops performing and recording as a guitar player in virtually every genre. Then 9/11 happened. He continued to play and produce from a studio in Brooklyn but as the years rolled on, Brett became increasingly disillusioned with the industry. In 2005, at age 32, he did a 180 degree pivot to pursue what had always been a secondary interest, made more urgent after 9/11: serving his country.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army with a specific intention to join the Army’s celebrated 82nd Airborne Division, which he did. That led to two deployments in Afghanistan totaling 27 months before returning to Fort Benning (in Columbus, Georgia) for good. Brett spent the rest of his Army career as a Drill Sergeant until his medical retirement in 2014.
Throughout his military service, Brett had continued playing guitar, but only as a hobby. While deployed in Afghanistan, he created a jazz guitar version of the Christmas classic, “Let it Snow” and uploaded his performance to YouTube. Seeing Brett in a Santa hat, playing his guitar with a M4 rifle leaning up against the wall behind him, is a poignant image (you can watch Brett’s performance at https://youtu.be/nXpkiU3bl-A ).
Having earned a bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security while serving, Brett assumed his post-military career would be in some kind of security/intelligence field. But with Army retirement on the horizon, he once again turned toward his first love—music. He began playing guitar regularly and found that his early inspiration returned with a vengeance. A part-time job teaching guitar lessons at a Columbus music store led to performance opportunities and he quickly connected with the local music community. He was back in the music scene but on his own terms this time.
As a veteran with PTSD, Brett also wanted to share with other veterans the powerful way that playing music can heal both mind and spirit. He was already donating instruments and a search in a Veterans’ Administration vocational database led him to CAMMO, which began referring veterans and active duty service members who were interested in learning to play the guitar. Teaching them virtually via Facetime and Skype, Brett saw the idea take hold and he wanted to grow the concept to the next level.
The result is CAMMO’s Guitars Revitalizing Our Warriors Through Healing (G*R*O*W*T*H) program, which is part of CAMMO’s music therapy services. A comprehensive program that encourages positivity, productivity, motivation and hope through full-spectrum guitar and music instruction, Brett hopes to expand its reach by teaching students who are beginners to obtain a level of proficiency that they can then teach new beginners. He also wants to gain sponsorships to underwrite instrument donations, teach students how to record music at home, and offer on-site seminars that will give students the opportunity to create music together in the same physical location rather than virtually.