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NEC Jazz Orchestra to Feature Concert Broadcast with Ken Schaphorst on May 6

Frank Hammel • News • May 4, 2021

Ken Schaphorst photo by Andrew Hurlbut

The NEC Jazz Orchestra celebrates the music of Jazz Studies Chair Ken Schaphorst in their final concert of the season. The program includes Schaphorst’s compositions “Charlie Parker’s Tuxedo,” “Omega Man,” “Sleepwalkers,” “Blues Almighty,” and “Mbira,” as well as his arrangements of Mingus’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments,” Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now,” and Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence.” Recorded in April at NEC’s iconic Jordan Hall, the concert will be broadcast on Thursday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. EST. To watch the performances, log on to

Ken Schaphorst is an internationally acclaimed composer, performer, and educator. As Chair of the Jazz Studies Department at NEC, he teaches courses in jazz composition, arranging, theory and analysis as well as directing the NEC Jazz Orchestra. Before moving to Boston in 2001, he served for ten years as Director of Jazz Studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. Schaphorst is also a founding member of the Jazz Composers Alliance, a Boston-based non-profit corporation promoting new music in the jazz idiom since 1985. Schaphorst studied at Swarthmore College, NEC, and Boston University, where he received the Doctor of Musical Arts in 1990. His composition teachers have included Thomas Oboe Lee, Gerald Levinson, William Thomas McKinley and Bernard Rands. Schaphorst was awarded Composition Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988 and 1991, the Wisconsin Arts Board in 1997, Meet the Composer Grants in 1987 and 1997, and was a Music Composition Finalist in the Massachusetts Fellowship Program in 1986. He won the Achievement Award for Jazz Education from DownBeat magazine in 2007. Schaphorst has released seven recordings as a leader: Ken Schaphorst Big Band: Making Lunch (1989), Ken Schaphorst Big Band: After Blue (1991), Ken Schaphorst Ensemble: When the Moon Jumps (1994), Ken Schaphorst: Over the Rainbow (1997), Ken Schaphorst Big Band: Purple (1999), Ken Schaphorst: Indigenous Technology (2002) and Ken Schaphorst Big Band: How to Say Goodbye (2015).

NEC’s Jazz Studies Department was the brainchild of Gunther Schuller, who moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum when he became president of the Conservatory in 1967. He soon hired saxophonist Carl Atkins as the first department chair, as well as other greats including NEA Jazz Master George Russell, pianist Jaki Byard and Ran Blake. The foundation of its teaching and success begins with the mentor relationship developed in lessons between students and the prominent faculty artists. In addition to its two jazz orchestras, faculty-coached small ensembles reflect NEC’s inclusive approach to music making, with ensembles focused on free jazz, early jazz, gospel music, Brazilian music, and songwriting, as well as more traditional approaches to jazz performance.

Students are encouraged to find their own musical voices while making connections and collaborating with a vibrant community of creative musicians, and ultimately to transform the world through the power of music. The program has spawned numerous Grammy winning composers and performers and has an alumni list that reads like a who’s who of jazz, while the faculty has included six MacArthur “genius” grant recipients (three currently teaching) and four NEA Jazz Masters.

About New England Conservatory

New England Conservatory (NEC) is recognized internationally as a leader among music schools, educating and training musicians of all ages from around the world for over 150 years. With 800 music students representing more than 40 countries in the College, and 2,000 youth and adults who study in the Preparatory and Continuing Education divisions, NEC cultivates a diverse, dynamic community for students, providing them with performance opportunities and high-caliber training with internationally-esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. NEC’s alumni, faculty and students touch nearly every aspect of musical life in the region; NEC is a major engine of the vital activity that makes Boston a musical and cultural capital.


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