Before it was renamed Cecil B. Moore, North Philadelphia's Columbia Avenue was a well-known haven for some of the most notable names in jazz. John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and many unknown musicians responsible for shaping the North American jazz genre found their mentors and cut their musical teeth in the smoky jazz bars that once lined the neighborhoods surrounding Temple University.
Although those clubs are long gone, the spirit of jazz is kept alive in Temple's classrooms and performance halls thanks to Director of Jazz Studies Terell Stafford and the students and faculty of the Boyer College of Music and Dance.
Since joining the Temple faculty, the award-winning trumpeter has helped shape a thriving musical scene on campus by creating an educational environment where young musicians learn more than scales.
In addition to being able to study with some of the biggest names in jazz, students are given a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the jazz industry through one-on-one clinics with professional musicians and regular performances in local, national and international jazz venues.
“Terell is committed to his students and to the jazz program,” said Robert T. Stroker, dean of the Boyer College of Music and Dance and Vice Provost for the Arts. “That’s one of the many reasons I recruited Terell and appointed him director. He not only teaches his students about the history and creative aspect of jazz, he teaches them how to be respectful adults and professional musicians. Our jazz students are a direct product and reflection of Terell himself.”
Recent graduate Danny Janklow compares his experience at Temple to a being a part of a tight-knit family of musicians. He says his experiences at Boyer helped shaped him as an artist.
“It’s all due to Terell,” said the recent graduate and award-winning saxophonist. “He put so much energy and time into finding the right professors and the right guests artists. I watched him create a community of musicians that embraces the Philadelphia scene, the New York scene and maintains a strong European connection.”
Stafford’s push for excellence leaves little room for down time; when he’s not mentoring a music student, he’s in the studio or on the road, performing for national and international crowds. While others are vacationing, Stafford is maintaining a busy schedule.
“Summer time is always busy,” Stafford said. “I don’t get much time off… I don’t sleep much. I don’t think I could manage my schedule if I didn’t love what I do so much.”
In addition to touring Europe with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and the Clayton Brothers, Stafford spent this summer putting the finishing touches on a new CD titled To Thad, With Love, a musical tribute to Thad Jones recorded entirely by Temple jazz students.
Stafford sees his work in jazz education as an extension of the great musicians who came before him. He’s not at all swayed by changes in popular music; in fact he foresees jazz continuing to influence music for years to come.
“I’m always inspired by the new direction the genre is taking,” he said. “I don’t hesitate to say jazz will be as strong in 20-years… maybe stronger in the future.”
“The scene is healthy and growing. Hopefully it will continue to grow so that there are more opportunities for students to experience Philadelphia for the incredible jazz city that it is.”