Stefon Harris’ passionate artistry and astonishing virtuosity have propelled him to the forefront of the jazz scene. In 2020 on National Public Radio (NPR), Harris' feature highlighted his contributions as a musician but also as an educator and thought leader who teaches empathy from the bandstand. Harris has also been featured as one of the leading and emerging artists for Apollo’s New Works Master Artist residency. In 2019, Hot House and Jazz Mobile awarded Harris best vibes as part of the best and brightest for the New York Readers Jazz awards. Heralded as “one of the most important artists in jazz” (Los Angeles Times), he is a recipient of the prestigious 2018 Doris Duke Artist Award, the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, has earned four GRAMMYTM nominations, and has been named Best Mallet player eight times by the Jazz Journalist Association. He was also chosen Best Vibes in the 2018 and 2017 Downbeat Magazine Critic’s Poll, the 2016 Jazz Times Expanded Critics Poll, the 2014 Jazz Times Critics Poll and the 2013 Downbeat Critics Poll. NPR’s All Things Considered praised Mr. Harris’ audacious CD Urbanus, which also earned a GRAMMY TM nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, as one of “The Year’s Best New Jazz” recordings. As a member of the SFJAZZ Collective, their 2014 CD, Wonder: The Songs of Stevie Wonder, won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album.
Mr. Harris received his Bachelor of Music degree in classical music and Master of Music degree in jazz performance at Manhattan School of Music where he formerly served as the Associate Dean and Director of Jazz Arts. He has taught at universities throughout the world in person and virtually via his Distance Learning Studio, has led curriculum development at the Brubeck Institute, and serves as Artistic Director of Jazz Education at New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Mr. Harris was Visiting Professor at Rutgers University and served on the jazz faculty of New York University for the past decade. “The Art of Listening,” part of a series of documentaries focusing on Harris’s community work in arts education in Kalamazoo, won 3 Gold Camera awards and 3 Michigan EMMY nominations. More recently he was the subject of a documentary, The Sound of New York, viewable on QwestTV and produced and directed by Italian filmmaker Gloria Rebecchi.
As a thought leader, Mr. Harris leads transformative presentations on corporate leadership development and team empowerment to Fortune 100 companies using jazz as a metaphor. His inspiring 2012 TED talk, “There Are No Mistakes on the Bandstand,” has gained nearly 800,000 views to date. Mr. Harris has served on the Board of Directors for Chamber Music America, WBGO-FM and on the Board of Advisors for Percussive Arts Society.
Mr. Harris’ eleventh album as a leader, Sonic Creed featuring his band Blackout was released September 2018 on Motema Records which earned him the cover of Downbeat Magazine. He has also recorded as part of The Classical Jazz Quartet, with Kenny Barron, Ron Carter and Lewis Nash, and as a member of the SFJAZZ Collective. He has recorded and performed with many of music’s greatest artists, including: Joe Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, Milt Jackson, Lionel Hampton, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Dr. Billy Taylor, Max Roach, Cedar Walton, Mulgrew Miller, Benny Golson, Bobby Watson, Chaka Khan, Kurt Elling, Buster Williams, Dianne Reeves, Ry Cooder, Charlie Hunter, Common, and Pablo Zeigler.
In 2013 he co-founded The Melodic Progression Institute (MPI) to design innovative products to help musicians learn and grow. MPI’s first ear training app Harmony Cloud, an ear-training tool which is now being widely used by musicians across multiple genres and is available on the Apple Apps Store.