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Feature Story

Oct. 20, 2021


Bradley takes the jazz world by storm



Independent jazz recording artist and trumpeter Willie Bradley 

ORANGEBURG, S.C. Independent jazz recording artist and trumpeter Willie Bradley is an alumnus of South Carolina State University who continues to take the jazz world by storm.

Bradley, 57, is from Orangeburg and now resides in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He attended SC State from 1980 to 1984 until he took a break to play with a few bands and tour with jazz trumpeter and composer Dizzy Gillespie in 1985. He then came back to SC State and got his degree in music education and performance in 1990.

While attending SC State, Bradley was also a member of the Marching 101 band and the Jazz Ensemble. 

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“I remember having to wear the ‘FRESHMAN 101’ tape on my forehead every day until the day of the first home game. Marching into Oliver C. Dawson Stadium was bone chilling and a huge rush to hear the roars from the Bulldog family as we marched into the stadium,” Bradley said. “Being a part of something of this magnitude instilled pride and love for the band and for SCSU that would last a lifetime.”

There were several music instructors and professors at SC State who helped shape Bradley’s life. Dr. Eugene Pinson, Dr. Barbara Vaughn, Dr. James George and Dr. Arthur Evans were all equal contributors to his success. Ronald J. Sarjeant, the previous director of bands, and Alvin Fulton, previous director of the Jazz Ensemble recruited him from Orangeburg-Wilkinson Highschool by offering him a music scholarship. 

“That was only the beginning,” he said. “The discipline in practicing on my trumpet every day, hard work ethics and the one-on-one nurturing was very instrumental in my success in the music industry and helped me become the person I am today.”

Bradley has performed internationally at many engagements and major jazz festivals including Catalina Island Jazztrax Festival, Spaghettini, Lowcountry Jazz Festival, Carson Jazz Festival, Newport Beach Jazz Festival and Lake Arbor Jazz Festival.

He has played for RJ & The Original James Brown Band and has worked with several other renowned musicians, including Ronnie Laws, Alex Bugnon, members of Sly & the Family Stone, Marion Meadows, Walter Beasley, Gerald Albright and David Sanborn. His music can be streamed through platforms such as Direct TV’s Music Choice, Pandora, Spotify, and iHeart Radio.


Bradley performs at Spaghettini. 

“Receiving a quality education from SC State really gave me a solid foundation in shaping my career. As a professional contemporary jazz touring artist – SC State alumni and Chapters across the country are my biggest fans supporters,” Bradley said.

His new single, “It’s On Now”, featuring Ragan Whiteside from his latest album, “It’s My Time”, was featured on the Smooth Jazz Network Top 100 Chart and the Bill Smooth Jazz Songs Chart. Bradley’s “It’s My Time” album that he dedicated to his mother who passed away this year, is also being considered for a Grammy.

His most recent honor was being asked to join the SC State Department of Visual and Performing Arts as an Artist in Residence adjunct professor teaching music industry courses.

“This is a dream come true! Being back in Orangeburg and back here at SC State, at the mere place that gave me the foundation and substance of my success, is God sent. I am truly humbled for this opportunity,” Bradley said.  


Bradley’s “It’s My Time” album cover


Media Contact

Allie Harris-Beeks

Communications Specialist

SC State University

[email protected]

803-536-8597 (Desk)

803-747-4098 (Cell)

About South Carolina State University

Founded in 1896 as a land grant institution with a mission of providing service to the citizens of the state, South Carolina State University has evolved from a small teachers’ college into a major University center of learning and research. Located in Orangeburg, S.C., South Carolina State offers more than 50 different fields of study on the undergraduate and graduate levels. South Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools.