Cornelius Boots

Founder/composer of Black Earth Shakuhachi School, Cornelius Boots has forged his own eclectic style as a professional woodwind performer since 1989. A licensed shakuhachi grandmaster (dai shihan), prize-winning composer and former bass clarinet performance innovator, he is actively merging the threads of Watazumido, Eric Dolphy and Son House on jinashi (all-natural) and Taimu (bass) shakuhachi.  

Boots has generated and released an entire body of new songs and compositions for these large, raw and rare bamboo flutes of Japanese Zen Buddhist origin: mukyoku (27 pieces for Taimu) and Shakuhachi Unleashed (48 virtuosic songs of rock, Zen, blues, metal and more). In 2018, he was a finalist in the World Shakuhachi Competition, a featured performer for Sony PlayStation’s E3 press conference (LA) and a featured performer/lecturer at both the World Bamboo Congress (Xalapa, Mexico) and the World Shakuhachi Festival (London). 

A three-time graduate of the renowned Jacobs School of Music (BM Classical Clarinet ’97, BS Audio Recording ’97, MM Jazz Studies ’99), Boots’ training and work experience is deep and diverse: jazz saxophonist, swing clarinetist, symphony bass clarinetist, funk and progressive rock bandleader and founder/composer of the world’s only composing bass clarinet quartet, Edmund Welles.  From 1996 to 2015 he led and composed virtuosic “heavy chamber music” for Edmund Welles, composing or arranging over 60 pieces, and releasing six albums, two EP’s and an instructional CD ROM. The quartet had featured recitals at Clarinetfests in 2013, 2011 and 2008, Switchboard Music Festivals 2008 and 2009, received a Chamber Music America New Works grant in 2004, and shared the stage with Medeski, Martin and Wood, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Extra Action Marching Band.  Boots has presented classes at San Francisco Conservatory, Cal Arts, Ole Miss, University of Memphis and UCLA, and has been teaching privately since 1997. 

With his four latest albums – Wood Prophecy, a five-movement “woodwind nature” saga, and the Shakuhachi Unleashed Series (Holy Flute [2017], Bamboo Rising [2018], and Sacred Root [2019]) —Cornelius continues to develop “bamboo gospel,” a robust, cross-cultural solo style utilizing rare breath-defying techniques and maximum polystylistic prowess. A Performer’s Certificate Awardee from David N. Baker’s seminal Jazz Studies program at Indiana University, Cornelius is the first student of Grandmaster Michael Chikuzen Gould to have earned a Shihan (master teaching license) in 2013 and was given the shakuhachi name 深禅 “Shinzen” (depth Zen or deep Zen). In 2022, he was awarded a Dai Shihan (grandmaster) certificate in recognition of his dedication and contribution to the art and practice of shakuhachi. In addition to teaching, Cornelius has recorded and written, in shakuhachi calligraphic notation, a series of 27 etudes (mukyoku) for Taimu shakuhachi. First-prize winner of the 2013 International Clarinet Composition Competition, Boots has also received commissions and awards from Chamber Music America, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Areon Flutes, International Songwriting Competition and Meet the Composer.   

Boots is a Vandoren performing artist and a Mujitsu Shakuhachi affiliate.  His first book, Woodwind Nature: Method, Philosophy, Repertoire is in process, with a planned release date of September 21, 2023.