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My name is Stephen and I’m a passionate saxophonist, composer, and arranger. In May 2019, I graduated from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, earning a Bachelors degree in Jazz Studies (saxophone performance) as well as an honors certificate with accompanying 40 page thesis on jazz composition.
I've had the distinct honor of being able to study with jazz legends Ralph Bowen and Victor Lewis, amongst many others. Ralph Bowen was instrumental in teaching me about jazz improvisation and theory while Victor Lewis helped me tremendously with jazz composition. Having the rare opportunity to study with both has left a lasting impression on my musicianship and composition skills.
My first musical experience, at five years old, was under the tutelage of classical Suzuki piano, a discipline which revolves around learning pieces by ear and performing pieces from memory sans sheet music. By the end of my piano studies, I had graduated Suzuki Association’s Level V and performed pieces at the highest level (level 8) under the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Towards the end of my classical piano studies, I transitioned into focusing on saxophone as my primary instrument.
In high school, I primarily played tenor saxophone. There, I had the distinct honor of leading the marching band, wind ensemble, and jazz band saxophone sections as section leader, a position in which I held the responsibility of teaching, preparing, and organizing students to meet the challenges of a variety of musical performances. As well as performing in nearly every music ensemble at the high school level (including performances of the musical “Little Shop of Horror” on alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, and flute) I had the distinct honor to participate in the classical and jazz offerings of the rigorously auditioned Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) ensembles. Out of countless saxophonists in the state, I was one of two tenor saxophonists chosen to perform in the district, region, and all-state wind ensembles and the only musician to be regaled the PMEA Richard Merrell Band Scholarship. In the jazz realm, my high school jazz ensemble auditioned and was chosen to be the only high school ensemble to perform at the 2015 PMEA state conference. With such a variety of music education and performance experiences, I was ready to continue my music education at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, an undergraduate program I chose specifically to study with Grammy nominated Ralph Bowen, known in the jazz world as a gifted educator.
Before heading off to college and over course of two summers, I had the opportunity to study at the prestigious Berklee Five Week Summer Jazz Performance Program. For the second summer, I auditioned and earned a half-tuition scholarship.
While at Mason Gross, as well as having the opportunity to study with Ralph Bowen on a weekly basis, I had the amazing opportunity to study with one of world’s greatest jazz drummers and composers, Victor Lewis, and other luminaries of the music including pianist Bill O’ Connell and bassist Kenny Davis. I performed in both classical and jazz ensembles, including the symphonic band, a myriad of chamber jazz ensembles, and the school’s top jazz band, “Jazz Ensemble 1.” As well as performing in school ensembles, I performed with my own jazz quartet in locations all around the New Jersey area including shows for the New Brunswick Jazz Project and the New Jersey Jazz Society. As a composer, I worked hard to compose a new piece every week for my junior and senior years. This productivity, as well as constant refinement under the guidance of Ralph Bowen and Victor Lewis, resulted in an honors college guided senior recital with all original material and an accompanying 40-page honors thesis on my personal process in jazz composition. As well as practicing and composing for many hours every day, I made Dean’s list every semester throughout my college career and maintained a high GPA, ultimately graduating with highest honors, Summa Cum Laude with an Honors College certificate and award.
Over the summers between undergraduate study, I have been blessed to have amazing opportunities to teach both privately and with excellent music programs. The most notable of music program experiences have been the two years in which, I interned at the Play, on Philly! summer program. There, I worked as a teaching assistant in the classroom and taught jazz, woodwind chamber ensembles, and assisted students during orchestral rehearsals, while also juggling administrative responsibilities for students ranging from 6 to 18 years of age. Most recently, I was back with the Play, on Philly! summer program as a teaching artist, where I taught a high school music composition course that ended with an opportunity for the students to have their compositions workshopped and recorded in a studio by a professional group, “Orchestra 2001”, an ensemble which focuses upon the Grammy nominated works of modern classical composers.
My teaching philosophy, shaped through years of varied classroom and private experiences, revolves around empathy and individuality. Every student is unique in their strengths and deficiencies, and it is my job as a teacher to figure out the most effective and enjoyable method of conveying knowledge. I specialize in creating personal, individualized practice plans and exercises for students, even going so far as writing etudes and recording transcription exercises with specific students in mind. I am looking forward to teaching students in any and all categories of music, including:
Jazz or Classical Saxophone
Jazz or Classical Composition
Jazz and Music Theory Preparation for PMEA or College auditions
Jazz Transcription Sibelius or Finale Notation Software
For four years during my undergraduate studies, I got to spend an hour a week with Ralph Bowen’s gentle, understated method of teaching. He worked to get to know me personally, and then crafted lessons around my specific needs. With surgical precision, he conveyed information and assigned work and entirely because of his teachings, I improved a tremendous amount while loving music, myself, and him. Every student is different – this fact is cause for the gnarliest and most beautiful moments in education. As a teacher, it is my duty to get to know each student and then create specifically for them. We are blessed enough to be given the opportunity to create an atmosphere for the student, and must do so with precision and intent, and in return, we’re gifted the joy of watching as the student learns and teaches themselves to heights we previously wouldn’t dare to have imagined. I’m lucky enough to have a tremendous passion for music, and through incredible opportunities, I’ve uncovered my love of sharing it. Teaching and music are gifts that I couldn’t be more lucky to have experienced, and all I can hope for is that it is in my future to continue to have both.
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