ASU alumnus to bring a modern sound to classical piano music with concert, master class this week

Jai Jeffryes will return to campus to lead a master class and perform a piano concert on Tuesday

Jai Jeffryes’ experience as an ASU student began in 1979 when he received a full-tuition Regents Scholarship to expand his talents as a pianist. Jeffryes, a now successful recording artist, will be returning back to ASU to lead a workshop and to perform a piano recital Oct. 4.

During his time at ASU, he grew close connections with the music program and its faculty members. Jeffryes said James Ruccolo Ph.D and Steven De Groote were some of his most memorable professors.

“I was a piano student of Dr. James Ruccolo," Jeffryes said. "I adored him, as a musician and as a friend. We lost Jim far too young. There is an ASU memorial scholarship in his name now. When Jim became too ill to teach, I entered the piano studio of Steven De Groote…[he] was an incredible influence on me and he became just as dear to me as a musician and friend as Jim was.”

After Jeffryes graduated in 1984 from ASU, he chose to attend Texas Christian University because Professor Groote moved on to teaching there. He then attained his Master’s degree in music and later moved to New York City to work with musical theater. He spent 10 years on tour with Broadway road shows, before going back to where it all began: classical piano.

His most recent CD, “Tangent Shores,” is distributed worldwide through Composers Concordance Records. In order to find new, unrecorded music, he turned to social media. He posted a call for scores and announced it on Twitter where he quickly received 400 submissions from composers from all over the world.

“I picked nine extraordinary composers, both young and established, to appear on the first release, which I named 'Amethyst,'" Jeffryes said.

Deanna Swoboda, assistant professor of tuba and euphonium, teaches The Enterprising Musician course at ASU. She will be incorporating Jeffryes and his knowledge of the music business by having him lead a master class called "Relevance and Reach."

“His relevance speaks to artistic meaning," Swoboda said. "So he is talking with the students about their art, their work and clearly defining themselves as artists and how to place value upon their work. And then the reach is speaking to effective marketing and making connections with those who care about and appreciate art. So essentially, how to sell your art, how to connect with the community.”

Aside from leading in a music workshop, Jeffryes will also be showcasing his own musical talents during his concert at Katzin Concert Hall at the Tempe Campus. The music that will be featured during his performance will be from his CD, "Tangent Shores."

Piano professor Walter Cosand, who has been teaching at ASU for 40 years, is involved closely with Jeffryes' performance. Cosand heard Jeffryes' music and saw it as an opportunity to bring modern and contemporary piano music to ASU.

“I had bought a compact disc and heard his music," Cosand said. "I think it is an opportunity for people to hear something different. Usually when you go to a solo pianist recital it’s music from hundreds of years ago, but this is brand-new music.”

The Enterprising Musician class, that will be featuring Jeffryes’s talk on Relevance and Reach, will be held in Gammage 209 at 5 p.m on Tuesday and will be open to the public for free.

Jeffryes' concert will be held at Katzin Concert Hall on Tuesday at 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets for the general public are available for $9 or $5 for ASU students. Tickets are available here.


Reach the reporter at mmbaiett@asu.edu or follow @marcellabaietto on Twitter.

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