Jazz Workshop with Edward Simon

The Department of Music is happy to host Edward Simon on Friday, March 17, for a jazz workshop in the Lewis E. Epley Jr. Band Hall. Simon is in Fayetteville to perform as part of the 10X10 Series with the Walton Arts Center with Afinidad and the Imani Winds. His workshop on campus will be held at 11:50 a.m. and is open to all students and interested members of the public, free of charge.  

Simon, origninally from Cardón, Venezuela, grew up surrounded by the sounds of Latin and Caribbean music. Born in 1969, Simon credits his father, Hadsy, for developing his passion for music and supporting him and his two brothers, Marlon and Michael, to become professional musicians. He attended the Philadelphia Performing Arts School, graduating at 15, then received a music scholarship from the University of the Arts where he studied classical music with concert pianist Susan Starr. Later he transferred to the Manhattan School of Music where he studied jazz piano with Harold Danko.

Upon arriving on the New York jazz scene in 1989, his reputation as a pensive, rhythmically astute, versatile player caught the ear of noted musicians Greg Osby, Jerry Gonzalez, Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Mann, Kevin Eubanks and Paquito D'Rivera, all of who would later employ him. In 1989 Simon took the piano chair in Bobby Watson's influential group Horizon (1989-94), later moving to the Terence Blanchard Group (1994-2002).

Simon made his first recording as a leader in 1994 (Beauty Within, Audioquest), giving birth to the Edward Simon Trio—the same year he took third place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. Since then he founded several other jazz ensembles such as: the Edward Simon Quartet, Ensemble Venezuela and Afinidad. Today, the Edward Simon Trio has become an established voice with five recordings and recent performances at such well-known jazz venues as the Village Vanguard, Jazz Bakery and Casa del Jazz.

Fueled by a strong desire to break boundaries through improvised music, in 2000 Simon co-founded the quartet Afinidad with saxophonist/composer David Binney, which includes bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Afinidad's mission is to create and perform eclectic contemporary American music with a focus on jazz, reflecting a wide range of musical influences such as Pop, Brazilian, Latin American and contemporary classical music. With this ensemble he produced two critically acclaimed recordings: Afinidad (Red Records, 2001) and Oceanos (Criss Cross, 2007). In 2008, Chamber Music America awarded Simon a second New Works: Creation and Presentation Program grant (2008-09) to compose and present "Sorrows and Triumphs", a work for Afinidad with special guest artists Adam Rogers, Gretchen Parlato and Rogerio Boccato.

At the same time, Simon has become increasingly interested in the folk music of his native land. In 2003 he founded Ensemble Venezuela, an outlet for exploring the marriage between jazz and Venezuelan music through new works and arrangements of works by Venezuelan masters. Two years later he was awarded a second grant from Chamber Music America to compose and perform the "Venezuelan Suite", a work that crosses the barriers between jazz, chamber music and Venezuelan folk music. Considered by some to be his most important work to date, "Venezuelan Suite" inspired the creation of a series of abstract paintings by artist Ellen Priest: "Jazz Paintings on Paper: Improvisations on the Venezuela Suite."

Simon has received Fellowships in Music Composition from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (2005), the State of Florida (2007) and the New York Foundation for the Arts (2008). He has served as faculty at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, the City College of New York and the University of the Arts. He has taught master classes and clinics at music conservatories and universities around the world and continues to teach piano and improvisation at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. He has been honored on two different occasions (1999, 2004) for this work with a Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Service to Jazz Education from the International Association for Jazz Education. In 2008 Simon had the rare opportunity to share his knowledge and experience with fellow Venezuelans. Thanks to a grant from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and The U.S. Department of State, he was a visiting professor at the Instituto Universitario de Estudios Musicales in Caracas, Venezuela.

Simon's workshop on the U of A campus is yet another great opportunity for jazz studies at the University of Arkansas. The Jazz Program in the Department of Music has seen great interest in recent years. The Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Richard Salonen, has had featured performances at Crystal Bridges of American Art and various venues around Northwest Arkansas. Salonen has pushed the Ensemble to participate in national and international festivals, they are currently under consideration for a festival in New Orleans later this year. Professor of guitar, Jake Hertzog, has been building resources and support for a new flurry of jazz instruction since his arrival in Fall 2016. Hertzog, along with drummer Chris Teal, has started the NWA Youth Jazz Workshop through the Community Music School — an outreach program aimed at getting young musicians interested in jazz early in their musical careers. The Department has also made several key hires in the last year to help gain traction for jazz studies on campus. This is truly an exciting time for jazz on campus to help support the well-established jazz scene in Northwest Arkansas.


Justin R. Hunter, administrative specialist III
Department of Music
479-575-4702, jrhunte@uark.edu


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