Title/Position: Lecturer, Jazz; Director of Community Outreach; HMI CoordinatorProfile:
What would you say are the outstanding highlights of your professional life?
- Playing saxophone in and serving as the Staff Arranger for Clark Terry’s Big Band since 1992
- Playing on Louie Bellson’s last record
- Playing at venues such as the Bluenote and Birdland
- Recording my first album, Namesake
- Becoming a faculty member at the Frost School of Music
Why did you choose music as your career?
I had some amazing band directors in high school and as I got more involved in music classes I realized that I wanted to do what they were doing. Teaching music. It looked like so much fun. As I progressed through college I realized that it was a lot of hard work, but hard work that paid off. From the first time I had a student succeed I was addicted to the feeling of pride and accomplishment that came with it. It is very similar to the feeling I get when a new composition or arrangement is performed. The chills, the excitement. I never could see myself doing something else.
Why should a prospective student attend the Frost School of Music?
There is no doubt in my mind that the Frost School of Music prepares students for the ever-changing career of “musician” better than any other school out there. Students get opportunities to perform and study in such varied settings that they have no choice but to be well-versed and versatile by the time they graduate. Through programs such as the Henry Mancini Institute and the Stamps Lecture series, students also get a leg up by rubbing elbows with people who are making a living in music on the highest levels. Our graduates leave school able and ready to succeed.
How were you influenced by your teachers?
I have been very fortunate to have some of the greatest teachers in their fields. First and foremost Clark Terry taught me how important it is to “pass on the language.” Clark also taught me, through watching him teach, that everyone has the ability to make music and love doing it. Dave Seiler from the University of New Hampshire really opened my eyes to the amazing world of big band music and how diverse and interesting it is. I cannot say enough about my two composition teachers. Fred Sturm and Gary Lindsay showed me how to find my voice as a composer and stretch my vocabulary and prospective on writing. Whit Sidener helped me expand my harmonic palette more than any other teacher has before. By being as fortunate as I am to have worked with so many amazing teachers I am able to use them as models in my own teaching. The most important lessons I learned from all of these teachers is to love what you are doing and to learn as much from your students as they learn from you.
What do you expect from students who participate in your ensembles?
To be ready to perform at the highest level possible while having fun and learning. I also want them to take an active part in the success of the ensemble, holding sectionals, writing music, and pushing each other to play better every day.
What are your latest composing or arranging projects?
Currently I am working on several projects including a book and a warm-up method. The book is a historical approach to jazz composition and will serve as the textbook in my jazz composition classes. The warm-up method is aimed towards middle school and high school jazz ensembles and is based on the teachings of Clark Terry. I am also working on arrangements for an upcoming recording project for Organ and Big Band.
Stephen Guerra, Jr., is a jazz composition lecturer in the department of Studio Music and Jazz at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. He is also the conductor of the Frost Studio Jazz Band, winning DownBeat student awards in both 2010 and 2011. In addition he is the Director of Community Outreach for the Frost School and Coordinator of the Henry Mancini Institute. Stephen earned a B.A. from the University of New Hampshire in Saxophone Performance, an M.M. from the Eastman School of Music, and is currently pursuing a D.M.A in Jazz Composition from UM Frost School of Music. In high demand as a composer and arranger, Guerra was commissioned to write music for Dave Koz, Jorge Villamizar, Carmen Bradford, the Lakes Region Symphony Orchestra, the Greater Manchester Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, and the Air Force Band of the West, and served as a composer‐in‐residence throughout the U.S. through the Commission Project and the National Endowment for the Arts. Guerra has performed alongside many jazz greats including Phil Woods, Al Grey, Snooky Young, Marshall Royal, John Faddis, and Jeff “Tain” Watts. He was a featured soloist on the Clark Terry Young Titan’s of Jazz 2003 release Live at Marihan’s and the Louie Bellson Big Band release, Louie and Clark Expedition 2. The Stephen Guerra Big Band released a critically acclaimed first album in 2009 entitled Namesake.