After receiving a Master's degree in jazz performance from the Manhattan School of Music, Stefon Harris attained instant recognition for blazing new paths as a performer on the vibraphone and marimba, and as an innovative composer.
Stefon Harris started his residency in 2002, at the end of a three-month tour with his band Blackout. Rather than shifting his biological clock right away, Harris spent his first weeks at the Gardner Museum as a night owl, starting to compose on the Tapestry Room piano late at night and filling the Museum with music until dawn. His goal was to create a new piece for large ensemble inspired by the atmosphere of the Historic Palace.
Harris returned in January of the following year to work with 20 students from Boston Latin School’s big band ensemble. As the students rehearsed three Duke Ellington pieces, Harris showed them new ways of approaching the music: how to play on top of the beat instead of behind it, for instance. Harris also led a master class at the Boston Arts Academy, bringing with him musicians Xavier Davis (piano), Tarus Mateen (bass), and Terreon Gully (drums). He concluded his January visit with a performance in the Tapestry Room for students from three Gardner partnership schools (the Tobin and Farragut schools, and the Alternative School at Little House). On September 28, 2003 Harris returned again to premiere his new composition, The Gardner Meditations, which opened the season’s Saturday Jazz at the Gardner Series.
After receiving a Master's degree in jazz performance from the Manhattan School of Music, Stefon Harris attained instant recognition for blazing new paths as a performer on the vibraphone and marimba, and as an innovative composer. His album The Grand Unification Theory (2003) won the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center. He has earned four Grammy nominations, including Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for There Is No Greater Love (1999), Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Kindred (2001) and The Grand Unification Theory, and Best Contemporary Jazz Album for Urbanus (2009). He has recorded and toured with jazz greats Kenny Barron, Cyrus Chestnut, Steve Coleman, Kurt Elling, Joe Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, David Sanborn, Steve Turre, and Cassandra Wilson. Harris has performed at many of the world’s most distinguished concert halls, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington, San Francisco’s Herbst Theater, UCLA’s Royce Hall, Chicago’s Symphony Center, Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, and the Sydney Opera House. A passionate educator, Harris has taught at Rutgers University and New York University, and became Associate Dean and Director of Jazz Arts at Manhattan School of Music in July 2017.