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Seattle-bred pianist Carmen Staaf joins New England Conservatory's tribute to Mary Lou Williams

Carmen Staaf sits in front a grand piano.
Christopher-Drukker
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Carmen Staaf

The 1999 Garfield High grad is the guest artist for a concert celebrating the music and legacy of of pianist, composer and arranger Mary Lou Williams on December 9. A streamed version of the concert will be available on December 22.

Carmen Staaf's earliest piano influence was the "happy music" of Erroll Garner. Later on, Mary Lou Williams' "Zodiac Suite" provided inspiration.

After Garfield High School, Staaf spent six months studying in Cuba. She went on to graduate with a double degree from Tufts University (Anthropology) and New England Conservatory (Jazz Performance), and in 2005, became one of the youngest faculty members ever hired by Berklee College of Music. That same year that she won the prestigious Mary Lou Williams Jazz Pianist competition.

Staaf was accepted to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, where she was mentored by some of the most important living jazz musicians.

Currently, Staaf is the pianist and musical director for NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater. She's appeared with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, at Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and at the Kennedy Center alongside Kenny Barron and Fred Hersch.

An active educator, Staaf has held faculty positions at Berklee College of Music, the New School, Stanford Jazz Institute, Litchfield Jazz Camp, and the New York Jazz Academy, and has led masterclasses around the globe.

Staaf co-leads the group Science Fair with drummer Allison Miller and performs with Grammy-nominated vocalist/composer Thana Alexa. The Carmen Staaf Trio, featuring Michael Formanek and Jeff Williams, released "Woodland" on Newvelle Records in June 2020.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.
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