Multiple Grammy Nominee Stefon Harris Comes Home to Manhattan School of Music
To Lead the School’s Prestigious Jazz Arts Program
November 14, 2016 (NEW YORK, NY) – Manhattan School of Music President James Gandre announced today that four-time Grammy Award nominee and eight-time Jazz Journalist award-winner Stefon Harris – himself a distinguished alumnus of the School – will join MSM in July 2017 as Associate Dean and Director of the Jazz Arts program.
“We are thrilled to announce that Stefon Harris, who earned both a Bachelor of Music in 1995 and a Master of Music in 1997, will formally return to MSM next year to lead our renowned Jazz Arts program,” says President Gandre. “As the music world already knows, Stefon is an endlessly talented musician and composer, but he is also an extremely accomplished educator with an impressive track record in and passion for jazz education. We know that he will bring that depth of experience to bear on his work leading MSM’s Jazz Arts program, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome him home.”
In addition to making a name for himself as “one of the most important artists in jazz” (Los Angeles Times) on the vibraphone and marimba and as a composer, Mr. Harris has taught in person at universities throughout the world and virtually via his Distance Learning Lab. He is the co-founder of the Melodic Progression Institute, which released its first product – the revolutionary ear-training app, Harmony Cloud™ – in 2016.
He led curriculum development at the Brubeck Institute, served as Artistic Director of Jazz Education at New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Visiting Professor at Rutgers University, and has been on the faculty at New York University for the past decade.
Mr. Harris will assume leadership of the MSM Jazz Arts Program from Justin DiCioccio, who will leave his position at the end of the year as leader of Jazz Arts. After a long and distinguished career at MSM, during which he led the jazz program to both artistic excellence and international distinction over the past 15 years, Mr. DiCioccio – also an acclaimed jazz musician and pedagogue – feels his mission at MSM is “accomplished and completed” and plans to take his career in exciting new artistic directions.
Mr. DiCioccio began his many years of service to MSM as a Precollege faculty member in 1971, just one year after the first official jazz ensemble – the Manhattan Stage Band – was introduced at the School. He joined the college faculty in 1984, the first year that the School offered what was then considered a pioneering college degree program in jazz. Mr. DiCioccio was appointed to lead Jazz Arts in 2002. During his years of leadership, he restructured the jazz curriculum, established a jazz DMA program, and broadly increased institutional awareness and participation in Jazz Arts performances and outreach activities. He developed international ties and brought many renowned musicians to MSM as faculty members and guest artists.
“Although we will miss Justin a great deal, the enormous contributions he made to MSM over the years will provide a firm foundation upon which Stefon can build, evolving the jazz program to even bigger and better things, and propelling us into our second century,” says President Gandre. Mr. Harris will join MSM in July 2017, just over a year before the School launches its centennial celebrations in fall 2018.
“Stefon earned his first degree at MSM as a classical musician and then studied jazz performance for his graduate degree,” says Marjorie Merryman, MSM’s Provost and Senior Vice President. “That versatility underpins what is so special about this brilliant musician. He is equal parts performer, composer, and teacher, and his multiple musical points of view suggest yet-untapped depths. We are very pleased to announce his new role here.”
Mr. Harris has recorded and performed with many of the jazz world’s biggest names and toured worldwide with his genre-bending band, Blackout, and as a member of the acclaimed SFJAZZ Collective. His artistry, stage presence, and virtuosity have propelled him to the forefront of the current jazz scene. His interest in blazing new trails in contemporary jazz is matched only by his commitment to exploring the rich potential of music education.
“I am truly honored to assume the position of Associate Dean and Director of the Jazz program at Manhattan School of Music,” says Mr. Harris. “For nearly a century, MSM has been at the vanguard of arts education and has consistently provided an invaluable service to young artists. It is a community of educators and dreamers, which nurtures some of the world’s most brilliant young minds. As a former student, I spent the most important and transformative years of my artistic life at MSM. It was during my time at MSM that I acquired the musical skills necessary to articulate my story in organized sound. I look forward to contributing to this great legacy of social empowerment through arts education. As an educator, I am greatly inspired to have the opportunity to play a role in helping to articulate and amplify the voices of the next generation of great artists.”
His most recent involvement with the School includes earning a 2015 MSM Distinguished Alumni Award, conducting master classes, and performing as a member of the MSM All Stars, a remarkable ensemble of alumni who appeared at MSM’s Spring 2016 Gala at New York’s iconic Rainbow Room.
“This newest phase of the relationship between MSM and one of its most distinguished jazz alumni represents the continuation of a beautiful friendship,” says President Gandre. “All of us at the School – the Board of Trustees, the faculty, administration, and students – eagerly anticipate Stefon’s arrival.”
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ABOUT STEFON HARRIS
Stefon Harris’s passionate artistry and astonishing virtuosity have propelled him to the forefront of the jazz scene. Heralded as “one of the most important artists in jazz” (Los Angeles Times), he is a recipient of the prestigious Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, has earned four Grammy nominations, and has been named Best Mallet player eight times by the Jazz Journalist Association. He was also chosen for Best Vibes in the 2013 Downbeat Critics Poll and the 2014 Jazz Times Critics Poll.
NPR’s All Things Considered praised Mr. Harris audacious CD Urbanus, which also earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album,as one of “The Year’s Best New Jazz” recordings. His 2014 CD with the SFJAZZ Collective, Wonder: The Songs of Stevie Wonder, won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album.
Mr. Harris received his Bachelor of Music degree in classical music and Master of Music degree in jazz performance at Manhattan School of Music. He teaches in person at universities throughout the world and virtually via his Distance Learning Studio, has led curriculum development at the Brubeck Institute, served as Artistic Director of Jazz Education at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and is Visiting Professor at Rutgers University. He has been on the faculty of New York University for the past decade. “The Art of Listening,” part of a series of documentaries focusing on Harris’s community work in arts education in Kalamazoo won 3 Gold Camera awards and 3 Michigan EMMY nominations.
As a thought leader, Mr. Harris leads transformative presentations on corporate leadership development and team empowerment to Fortune 50 companies using jazz as a metaphor. His inspiring 2012 TED talk, “There Are No Mistakes on the Bandstand,” has gained over a half million views to date. Mr. Harris has served on the Board of Directors for Chamber Music America and WBGO-FM and is currently on the Board of Advisors for Percussive Arts Society.
Mr. Harris has recorded ten albums as a band leader and recorded as part of the Classical Jazz Quartet, with Kenny Barron, Ron Carter (another MSM alumnus), and Lewis Nash, and toured worldwide with his bands and as a member of the SFJAZZ Collective, as well as recording and performing with many of music’s greatest artists, including: Joe Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, Milt Jackson, Lionel Hampton, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Dr. Billy Taylor, Max Roach (MSM alumnus), Cedar Walton, Mulgrew Miller, Benny Golson, Bobby Watson, Chaka Khan, Kurt Elling, Buster Williams, Dianne Reeves, Ry Cooder, Charlie Hunter, Yakub Addy Odadaa, Common, and Pablo Zeigler.
ABOUT MSM JAZZ ARTS
Manhattan School of Music was the first independent conservatory and one of the first music schools in the United States to acknowledge the importance of jazz as an art form when it established a Master of Music degree program in Jazz and Commercial Music Studies in 1984 and then a Bachelor of Music degree in 1987. The seeds of jazz were planted early at MSM as even before these jazz degree programs were offered, the School welcomed as students the likes of Donald Byrd, Max Roach, John Lewis, Dick Katz, Joe Wilder, and Hugh Masekela, all of whom studied classical music at MSM. The School’s Jazz Arts program is now one of the richest programs of its kind, thanks to systematic and rigorous conservatory training combined with a myriad of performance and networking opportunities in New York City. In addition to a variety of small combos, student ensembles include the Grammy Award-nominated Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Concert Jazz Band, Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Philharmonic, and Chamber Jazz Orchestra. The program strives to produce students who perform, compose, and teach with equal facility and passion.
About MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Founded as a settlement music school by Janet Daniels Schenck in 1918, today Manhattan School of Music is recognized for its 950 superbly talented undergraduate and graduate students who come from 60 countries and nearly all 50 states; a world-renowned artist-teacher faculty; and innovative curricula. The School is dedicated to the personal, artistic, and intellectual development of aspiring musicians, from its Precollege students through those pursuing postgraduate studies.
Offering both classical and jazz training – and, beginning in fall 2016, a Bachelor's degree program in musical theater – MSM grants Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees, as well as the Professional Studies Certificate and Artist Diploma. Additionally, true to MSM's origins as a music school for children, the Precollege program continues to offer superior music instruction to young musicians between the ages of five and 18. The School also serves some 2,000 New York City schoolchildren through its Arts-in-Education Program, and another 2,000 students through its critically acclaimed Distance Learning Program.