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At Last! A Jazz Orchestra for Philadelphia

Terell Stafford founded the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia in 2013.

The tremendous trumpeter Terell Stafford says finding talent for the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia was “super easy” because Philadelphia is filled with brilliant musicians. Chemistry is key in the band that Stafford put together in 2013. He says the jazz orchestra is what Philadelphia is about:  jazz virtuosos with ties to the city, focusing on music connected to its past and present.

Along with performing, the Orchestra’s mission includes extending jazz’s reach to area residents, young and old. That’s not something new for Stafford, who’s been teaching at Temple University for over two decades.   Check out their upcoming show at the Kimmel Center on June 18th!

Stafford is renowned for his ability on the trumpet. His new CD, Brotherlee Love - A Celebration of Lee Morgan was released in June 2015. Along with founding and directing the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, he is chair of the Jazz and Instrumental Studies programs at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance. 

Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia’s Terell Stafford spoke with WRTI's Meridee Duddleston on December 2nd, 2015.

Radio script: 

Meridee Duddleston:  What are five saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets, a guitar, bass and drums? 

Terell Stafford:  Chicago has it, Cleveland has it, Columbus has one…

MD: Trumpeter Terell Stafford didn’t sign on right way when civic leaders approached him about spearheading a new project. Instead, he called his friend and mentor Wynton Marsalis who told him every major city needs a jazz orchestra. Someone asked how long he thought it would take to fill the spots.

TS:  And I said, ‘It should take about ten minutes.'  And I got on a plane and I started texting musicians and about 15 minutes later, I had the first band and the band has pretty much remained that same band.

The Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia

MD:  So far, the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia has performed twice a year at the Kimmel Center.   Fundraising, marketing, audience development, reaching kids. It’s a time-consuming effort for someone who already records, teaches and runs Temple’s Jazz and Instrumental departments. Why add this?

TS:  Because Philadelphia’s been very very good to me and so returning that is something I feel very passionate about.   And I feel great about us doing these two concerts and hopefully the two concerts will turn into four, or six, and the orchestra can possibly tour and go abroad and represent Philadelphians the way they should be represented.

MD: Chemistry and virtuosity, says Stafford, are vital to his mix of local jazz artists, some with ties to University of the Arts and Temple. 

TS:  It’s really great cause the guys in the band, they stop and say, ‘Hey, Terell.  Do you think we can go back to bar five? You know I could do that better." And so it’s really great. These brilliant musicians are so humble and they want to go over this music.  And a lot of times I forget to play, I’d rather hear them play.

MD: A potential centerpiece of jazz talent comes to market.