Artist Profiles

Flutist Andrea Brachfeld’s Spiritual Journey in Music

At age 15, flutist Andrea Brachfeld began the practice of meditation, and at age 16, the practice of yoga. Over the decades, she has pursued such spiritual practices, which permeate her music and guide her life. 

Brachfeld’s bio, found on her website, spans decades of stellar musical achievement in New York City and beyond. She has studied, played, and recorded with some of the greatest figures in twentieth century jazz. She spent two years performing in Venezuela in the 1980s, playing traditional Venezuelan music and jazz. She has recorded eleven albums under her own name, including the most recent (2022), Evolution – an apt title for her own trajectory as a musician.  

In 2021, Brachfeld relocated from New York to Baltimore (originally her home town) to be closer to her family, keeping one foot in each city’s music scene but making an ever-wider path in Baltimore. In February 2024, she dazzled listeners and fellow musicians alike in the house band at the weekly Keystone Korner jam session, and in March she played an Ornette Coleman tribute concert at An die Musik with Todd Marcus, Eric Kennedy, Herman Burney. She was recently invited to perform in the Rochester Jazz Festival, June 23, 2024. 

 “There is so much soul and spirit” in the Baltimore jazz scene, she says. “It’s a microcosm of every jazz community in the world.” She finds as much talent here as in New York City but with less competitiveness and fewer cliques. And, she adds, “people here are nicer.”  As a newcomer, she came on like a typical New Yorker – rather blunt and brusque –but quickly adapted to a more affable persona to fit with the Baltimore style.  

That transformation was just one aspect of Brachfeld’s spiritual growth. Another was learning to respond with equanimity when musicians she was meeting for the first time seemed skeptical of her abilities, perhaps because she didn’t look like your typical jazz musician.  But she found that their quizzical looks would vanish as soon as they heard her play. 

Some profound life experiences in the 2000s brought about further spiritual transformations. In 2002, an attack of focal dystonia left her unable to play the flute. She was told that she would never play again. But she determined to heal herself and found a path toward rehabilitation through introspection and what she calls “energy medicine.” She shares her healing process with others through free workshops. 

 In 2016, she experienced a “dark night of the soul,” dealing with some issues of ego and authenticity. It was a “really rough time” that lasted almost 18 months as she struggled against darkness and negativity. Eventually she emerged from this struggle with a deeper understanding of the way in which music is generated from the soul. “The music comes through me—not from me,” she explains. “It’s all about service” to listeners, bringing them joy and comfort through music. She has achieved a greater sense of patience and readiness: “My job is to practice regularly and to keep healthy,” to be prepared for the opportunities that might come. 

After her bout with focal dystonia, Brachfeld determined to focus on her jazz chops, transcribing solos, moving more toward the bebop style, listening to Charlie Parker’s inflections and nuances. Listening to her albums from 2002 up to her most recent (2022) album, Evolution, one can hear her evolution toward a quality of playing that is scintillating, fluid, confident, energetic, and filled with passion and conviction. Her performance at Keystone Korner featured melodic lines with a marvelous swirling quality, like bright leaves lifted in a gust of wind. She stays true to the harmonic form without being slavishly bound to the scales, playing off the beat but never losing the groove. 

Brachfeld’s oeuvre encompasses not only traditional and Latin jazz but also styles more directly focused on meditation and spirituality, such as in a 2009 album by Kala Devi, Songs from the Divine. She participates monthly in playing Kirtan (Indian devotional music) at Bhakti Yoga DC Washington, D.C. She recently visited India—a place with the reputation of stirring up one’s belief systems–and says she would like to learn to play Indian raga. For her March 2nd concert at An die Musik, she wrote a composition for a jazz trio, with drummer Eric Kennedy playing crystal singing bowls. These bowls are instruments that create a calm and ethereal sound that is believed to have profound effects on the body and spirit and that are often used for meditation or spiritual reflection. She played on February 24th at the Ruscombe Healing Center for a Full Moon Celebration with meditation “New Age” style music and expects this to become a monthly event. As she explained, connecting with the spiritual is vitally important to her work as a musician.

“Playing music is the sacred process of clearing and cleansing my body, mind, spirit and soul on a daily basis,” transcending ego and “opening myself up to the divine to receive the sacred sounds and vibrations of the universe.” This allows her to “heal and inspire” those who listen with all their heart–a “miracle” to which all musicians should aspire. 

Baltimore is truly privileged to have such a prodigious talent in our midst, and Brachfeld is eager to make more connections in the Baltimore jazz community. Learn more about her on her at and in the pages of All About Jazz and Downbeat magazine. 

–by Liz Fixsen

Liz Fixsen is a jazz vocalist, pianist, and aficionada who is often seen out and about town in the jazz community. She edits and writes for this newsletter.

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