INTERVIEW: Chelsea (Gwizdala) Stevens, Professional Musician
By John Grossi
Chelsea Stevens is a freelance bassist, orchestrator, and music copyist working in many capacities throughout the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and beyond. She performs live, records in studios, teaches and writes curriculum for various music programs, works with film and television composers, and gets to do what she loves every day. She's worked with artists like Beyoncé, Kanye West, Chloe x Halle, Postmodern Jukebox, Jessie Reyez, We Are King, Andrea Bocelli, and more, at venues like the Hollywood Bowl, the Staples Center, the Dolby Theatre, the El Capitan Theatre, the Microsoft Theatre, the Disneyland Resort, Jazz Café (London), New Morning Jazz Club (Paris), as well as international tours in 14 countries.
QUESTION AND ANSWER!
What sort of purpose do you feel in your job and/or why do you believe your line of work is important and meaningful?
Music can be such a balm of healing and happiness in tough times, which we’ve all experienced plenty of in the past two years. Whether it’s creating brand new music for people to hear, or joining their favorite artists for special performances, or guiding the next generation to ensure music remains an important part of our culture, a lot of my job entails meaningful work that brings me a lot of joy.
What is the most exciting part of your day-to-day work?
I get to work with people I’ve always looked up to! Whether it’s show directors at Disneyland, or composers for everything from Bridgerton to the Academy Awards, or even Beyoncé—I am constantly inspired to live up to the dreams of who I wanted to be as a kid.
What do you think the future of your industry looks like, let's say in 15 years? What impact will it be making? How will it be different from what you do now?
The music industry is becoming exceedingly digital, and I’m sure many projects will stop using instruments to create music entirely (even more than they are now). I’m hoping that waves of new musicians will continue to bring back the “good old days,” when real instruments were played by real people in real bands and orchestras, rather than robots doing it all for us!
When did you decide you wanted to enter this field? What steps did you take to make that decision a reality?
Becoming a musician came naturally to me. My father is a musician as well, and I often joke that it’s the same as if he were a plumber, because I essentially took up the family business. I had my first paying music jobs in high school, and although I initially went to college to become a journalist, I was continually drawn back to music. I ended up graduating with a degree in Bass Performance, and never looked back! Since then, I make an effort to leave a good impression on everyone I work with—you truly never know where your next job will come from. Some of my favorite gigs have come from simply passing someone in the hallway at a recording studio once.
For any students, age 12-18 who thinks your job sounds interesting, what advice would you give them to help them learn/train/explore your field?
The music business is not for the faint of heart. Every aspect of the industry requires years of dedication and practice, as well as developing a stone-solid tough skin—keeping your chin up and moving forward is key, no matter how many times you hear the word “no” (which, trust me, is A LOT!). If you’re the kind of person who can handle that, then the rewards on the other side are truly incredible—but don’t sacrifice your well-being or your self-worth to get there.
Are there any organizations, communities, or movements that create synergy between you and others in your field, here in the city of Long Beach?
So many! A big one for me is the Harmony Project, which brings music programs to underserved communities in Long Beach. The organization is staffed with incredible teachers who know how to instill the perfect foundation of music education to grow and succeed in whatever the students might want to do next. I’m also quite partial to the music program at Long Beach Poly High School: an impressive number of professional musicians have emerged from Poly, and have gone on to work with artists like Prince, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Lil’ Wayne, and many more.
What makes Long Beach a great place to live and work as it relates to your industry?
If I know one thing in my life is true, it’s that I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t grown up in Long Beach, California. I brag about my hometown every single chance I get. The diverse cultures, languages, upbringings, histories, and relationships of our people exist in a beautiful way that doesn’t exist anywhere else on Earth. Long Beach fosters creativity, support, and community; the people you grow up with in the LBC are your family for life, and anyone you meet from Long Beach in other parts of the world are instantly your friend. We have an impressive roster of Long Beach natives, and I work every day to live up to that standard, and to make my city proud.