NYO Jazz 2021 Faculty
Sean Jones, Trumpet/Artistic Director
Music and spirituality have always been intertwined in the artistic vision of trumpeter, bandleader, composer, educator, and activist Sean Jones. Mr. Jones sang and performed as a child with the church choir in his hometown of Warren, Ohio, and switched from playing the drums to the trumpet at the age of 10.
Mr. Jones is a musical chameleon, comfortable in any musical setting no matter the role or genre. After a six-month stint with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis offered him a permanent position as lead trumpeter of the ensemble, a post he held from 2004 until 2010. In 2015, Mr. Jones was tapped to become a member of the SFJAZZ Collective. During this time, he has managed to keep a core group of talented musicians together under his leadership, forming the foundation for groups that have produced and released eight recordings on Mack Avenue Records. His most recent is the 2017 release Sean Jones: Live from Jazz at the Bistro.
Mr. Jones has been prominently featured in recordings and performances with many major figures in jazz, including Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Wilson, and Marcus Miller. He was selected by Mr. Miller, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter for their A Tribute to Miles tour in 2011. He has also performed with the Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Youngstown symphony orchestras, as well as Soulful Symphony in Baltimore and a chamber group at the Salt Bay Chamberfest.
Mr. Jones is an internationally recognized educator. He was recently appointed the Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair in Jazz Studies at The John Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute in Baltimore. Previously, he served as chair of the brass department at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Tanya Darby, Trumpet
A native of Seaside, California, Tanya Darby is a current and veteran member of such groups as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Roy Hargrove Big Band, The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Michel Camilo Big Band, and Rufus Reid Large Ensemble, among others. She has performed and toured with artists who include Dianne Reeves, Clark Terry, Jon Faddis, Paquito D’Rivera, and Gladys Knight, and ensembles such as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Count Basie Orchestra, Ron Carter’s Great Big Band, Duke Ellington Orchestra, and Mingus Big Band. She has appeared on BET on Jazz as part of the T. S. Monk Sextet and performed with Aretha Franklin as part of the “Arista Records 25th Anniversary Celebration” on NBC.
Sought-after for her accomplishments as a trumpeter, Ms. Darby has played lead in numerous bands, including Paquito D’Rivera and the United Nation Orchestra, George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band, Manhattan Jazz Orchestra, and Jimmy Heath’s Queens Jazz Orchestra, among many others.
An experienced educator, Ms. Darby is a former assistant professor of lead trumpet at the University of North Texas. She has also served as adjunct faculty at Temple University and New York City’s New School.
Wycliffe Gordon, Trombone
A musical ambassador and interpreter of “America’s music,” Wycliffe Gordon is one of the world’s most renowned and award-winning jazz trombonists. The Jazz Journalists Association named him Trombonist of the Year for the 11th time in 2018. DownBeat magazine’s Critics Poll named him Best Trombone in 2018, a distinction he also received in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. Mr. Gordon’s signature sound and mastery of the plunger mute have helped solidify his impressive musical career.
Mr. Gordon tours as a soloist and with his quintet, headlining legendary jazz venues and performing arts centers worldwide. Mr. Gordon has recorded or been featured on more than 300 recordings; composed and arranged hundreds of compositions, including the theme song for NPR’s All Things Considered; and is a passionate and sought-after educator. Mr. Gordon is a former veteran member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He was a featured guest artist on the series Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center.
Mimi Jones, Bass
For more than two decades, bassist, vocalist, producer, label owner, and filmmaker Mimi Jones has reigned supreme as a sidewoman to an impressive coterie of musicians and as a bandleader She has released three original recordings on her own label, Hot Tone Music, which has produced nine albums since she launched the label in 2009. She has been teaching at the Berklee School of Music since 2018.
Raised in the Bronx, Ms. Jones studied classically with Linda McKnight and at the Jazzmobile program with Lisle Atkinson. She has also studied with such jazz masters as Barry Harris, Ron Carter, Milt Hinton, Billy Taylor, Yusef Lateef, Max Roach, Maria Schneider, and Guillermo Edgehill. As a Jazz Ambassador, Ms. Jones toured Africa, Europe, China, South and Central America, and the Caribbean for the US State Department. Her vast work as a sidewoman includes gigs with Kenny Barron, Lizz Wright, Beyoncé, Dianne Reeves, Tia Fuller, Ingrid Jensen, Roy Hargrove, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nona Hendryx, Marc Cary, Rachel Z, Sean Jones, Jason Moran, Ravi Coltrane, Ralph Peterson, and credits on Terri Lyne Carrington’s Grammy Award–winning album The Mosaic Project.
Ms. Jones co-directs (with ArcoIris Sandoval) The D.O.M.E. Experience, a multimedia project created to inspire its audience to learn about environmental and social issues through original compositions performed by a 20-piece jazz orchestra with dance and video. She also created Next Stop Harlem, an original mini–musical production about the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance. She has been hosting The Lab Session—a jazz party and experimental jam session based at Small’s Jazz Club—since 2019.
Ms. Jones was voted a No. 2 Rising Star in the DownBeat Critics Poll two years in a row, and in 2018 was named No. 1 Rising Star. She is currently working on a new project called Black Madonna, featuring strings, percussion, and voice, and hopes to record later in 2021. She recently recorded and performed with The American Opera Project, and appeared in HBO’s Between the World and Me, based on the book by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Erica von Kleist, Saxophone
Renowned flutist, saxophonist, composer, and educator Erica von Kleist has been a performing artist and teacher worldwide for over two decades. A native of Connecticut and an alumna of Essentially Ellington Jazz Academy, Ms. von Kleist moved to New York to hone her skills at The Juilliard School, and in 2004 earned the first bachelor’s degree in jazz in the school’s history. After graduation, she launched her career as a sidewoman through touring, recording, and performing with the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Chris Potter, Bebo Valdés, Cachao, Celia Cruz, Kristin Chenoweth, and Seth MacFarlane, among many others. Ms. von Kleist is the recipient of several honors that include the ASCAP Foundation’s Young Jazz Composer Award and Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award. She has also been named a Rising Star and Critic’s Pick in DownBeat Magazine.
Ms. von Kleist has taught private lessons for over 15 years. She has been a guest educator at The Juilliard School, Stanford University, University of Montana, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, among others, and has done outreach work at conservatories in Havana, Cuba. Ms. von Kleist has released three albums as a bandleader: Project E in 2005, Erica von Kleist & No Exceptions in 2009, and Alpine Clarity in 2014, which she recorded in her new home of Whitefish, Montana. Ms. von Kleist recently started two companies that aim to provide employment for musicians based in the Flathead Valley—the Northwest Artist Syndicate and Groovetrail—which have booked hundreds of paid performances for talented local musicians since their inception.
Allison Miller, Drums
New York City–based drummer, composer, and teacher Allison Miller engages her deep roots in improvisation as a vehicle for exploring music. Described by critics as a “modern jazz icon in the making,” Ms. Miller won DownBeat’s 67th Annual Critics Poll for Rising Star Drummer and JazzTimes’s 2019 Critics Poll for Best Jazz Drummer. Her composition “Otis Was a Polar Bear” was included on NPR’s list of “The 200 Greatest Songs by 21st Century Women+.” She is also the first recipient of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation’s commissioning grant.
Ms. Miller is a three-time Jazz Ambassador for the US State Department. In 2019, she was the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 2019 artist-in-residence alongside bassist and producer Derrick Hodge. The same year, her band Boom Tic Boom celebrated its 10th anniversary with the release of its fifth album, Glitter Wolf, which was included among the best jazz of 2019 by NPR, Rolling Stone, and JazzTimes. When not leading Boom Tic Boom, Ms. Miller co-directs Parlour Game with Jenny Scheinman and Science Fair with Carmen Staaf. She is also a proud member of the critically acclaimed supergroup Artemis, whose debut release appeared in many lists of the best jazz of 2020. Artemis was named the Jazz Journalists Association’s 2020 Mid-Sized Ensemble of the Year.
Ms. Miller teaches at The New School’s School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, where she is a Melba Liston Fellow; Stanford Jazz Workshop; Centrum; Geri Allen Jazz Camp; and Carnegie Hall’s NYO Jazz. She is the artistic director of Jazz Camp West, and for her work with Jazz Education Abroad, she has been appointed Arts Envoy to Thailand. She endorses Yamaha drums, Zildjian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Evans drumheads, and Sunhouse Percussion.
Shamie Royston, Piano
Denver-born Shamie Royston is a pianist, composer, and educator. The New York Times has called her “a rhythmic vanguardist …who channels Kenny Kirkland, Geri Allen, Ahmad Jamal and McCoy Tyner.” She received her master’s degree in music composition from the University of Denver with top honors.
Ms. Royston has been commissioned to compose and arrange works for Tia Fuller, Dianne Reeves, and other prominent musicians; she has also been commissioned to arrange her original works for New York’s Penfield Central School District, Denver’s Metropolitan State University, the Colorado Music Educators Association, and Boston’s Berklee College of Music. She was a key figure in Berklee’s first annual State of Jazz Composition Symposium and Concert Series, where her works were performed alongside such jazz luminaries as Terence Blanchard, Geri Allen, and Maria Schneider.
Ms. Royston is known as an exemplary educator, for which she has been honored with several awards. At the prestigious Berklee School of Music, she held a full-time a professorship in the jazz composition department. She is currently assistant director of the New Jersey Youth Symphony Orchestra’s jazz program. She has also adjudicated high school and college jazz festivals and served as clinician for major ensembles in the US and abroad.
Since her arrival in the New York City area in 2006, Ms. Royston has been a steady member of the Tia Fuller Quartet and has performed and recorded with many other great artists, including Christian McBride, Ralph Peterson, Terri Lyne Carrington, John Patitucci, and Sean Jones. She has performed in the world’s top jazz venues and festivals, including the North Sea, Montreal International, and Dominican Republic jazz festivals.
Ms. Royston’s most recent CD, entitled Beautiful Liar—released on the Sunnyside label in June 2018—has received rave reviews from Downbeat, JAZZIZ, NPR, and others. This recording appeared in the first round of voting for the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Her debut CD, Portraits, was released in 2014 by Hot Tone Music.
Matthew Stevens, Guitar
Grammy-nominated guitarist and composer Matthew Stevens has collaborated with some of contemporary music’s most exciting artists since he arrived in New York in 2007. In addition to his critically acclaimed solo albums—Woodwork, Preverbal, and In Common and In Common 2 with Walter Smith III—his songs and guitar are featured on more than 70 records with artists such as Terri Lyne Carrington, Esperanza Spalding, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Anna B Savage, Robag Wruhme, Jamila Woods, PHER, Dave Douglas, Sixty, and Harvey Mason.
Recognized as one of the leading artists of his generation, Matthew Stevens has a “singular style [that] dissolves the demarcation lines between jazz, rock, and ambient music” (Mojo). His music is “honest and soulful” (Pitchfork) and “advances the ideals of modern jazz” (NPR).
Mr. Stevens has worked as a guitarist with producers Quincy Jones, Glen Ballard, Tony Visconti and Tyler Armes of Murdagang. As a producer, he worked on Esperanza Spalding’s albums Exposure and the Grammy-winning 12 Little Spells, and Terri Lyne Carrington’s audacious double album Waiting Game. In 2019, Mr. Stevens was invited by Spotify’s Secret Genius program to a weeklong writing and collaboration session at New York’s Jungle City Studios with Jamila Woods, Mereba, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Kacy Hill.
Mr. Stevens lives in Harlem, New York, and teaches at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.
Reginald "Reggie" Thomas, Piano/Ensemble
Reginald Thomas can be seen fronting his own groups—the Mardra/Reggie Thomas Ensemble and organ trio OGD—on both piano and Hammond organ, and performing as sideman with great artists that include Hamiet Bluiett, Ann Hampton Callaway, and the Carl Allen / Rodney Whitaker ensemble. He often performs with the legendary Count Basie Orchestra as accompanist at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition.
Mr. Thomas appears as guest artist at collegiate jazz festivals around the country, including those at Lawrence University, the University of South Florida, and Texas Tech University. He has also performed internationally, in Tokyo, Bangkok, Macau, Jakarta, Calgary, Milan, Warsaw, Poznan, Senegal, and London. In recordings, he has collaborated with Clay Jenkins, Kim Richmond, and Clark Terry / Mike Vax. His latest recording with his wife, Mardra—Matters of the Heart (MRT Jazz)—was released in 2015. Mr. Thomas has been awarded the Excellence in the Arts Award from the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis, and was named best jazz artist by the Riverfront Times in 2005.
After almost 20 years as professor of music at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and three years at Michigan State University as professor of jazz piano, Mr. Thomas now leads the Northern Illinois University School of Music’s jazz studies program. He also works as consultant and clinician with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Program and Band Director Academy. He is an active member of summer jazz faculties in the US and abroad, and a frequent director of all-state jazz bands, combos, and choirs. Mr. Thomas earned his master’s degree in music education from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University.
Lead Donors: Hope and Robert F. Smith, Marina Kellen French and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, The Kovner Foundation, and Beatrice Santo Domingo.
Global Ambassadors: Hope and Robert F. Smith, and Maggie and Richard Tsai.
Major support has been provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Clive and Anya Gillinson, Sarah Billinghurst Solomon and Howard Solomon, and Joyce and George Wein Foundation, Inc.
Additional support has been provided by Sarah Arison, Bank of America.