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.”