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Sharel Cassity

Saxophonist I Composer I Educator

About Me

Saxophonist, Woodwindist, Composer & Educator Sharel Cassity (pron. Shah-Relle) is a musician on the New York & Chicago jazz scenes. Listed as “Rising Star Alto Saxophone” in Downbeat Magazine for the past 11 consecutive years, Sharel has appeared on the Today Show, earned her MA from The Juilliard School under full scholarship, won the 2007 ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award & has been inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Cassity has shared the stage with jazz luminaries including Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; as well as mainstream artists Aretha Franklin, Natalie Merchant, Vanessa Williams & Trisha Yearwood. She has released five albums as a bandleader and appeared on over 30 as a sideman, toured 24 countries and performed at leading venues like the Newport Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival & the North Sea Jazz Festival. Relocated to the Chicago area with her husband and son, Cassity is currently a professor of saxophone and piano at Elgin Community College in Elgin, IL; Columbia College and DePaul University in Chicago, IL. Sharel is a proud Vandoren Performing Artist.

My Jazz Story

I was first exposed to jazz...through hearing my dad play piano, also hearing his records since I can remember. From the ages of 9 to 12, each summer visitation I would sneak into his collection when he went to work, listening all day. We would play standards together when he came home, then he would spin Charlie Parker and John Coltrane for me. I was given the nickname... "Sectionette" by James Moody. The first time I sat in the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star sax section, it felt like a good fit. I had come up in big bands and knew how to listen, blend, and support the lead. Since Jimmy Heath and Moody call each other "Section" from playing in so many sax sections together over the years, I was dubbed "Sectionette" on my first day. The first show I ever attended was...David Sanborn. In the 7th grade, I thought "Bang Bang" was the coolest song ever. My mom took me, and we were in the balcony—I had to use binoculars but stood up the entire time. The first jazz record I bought was... Branford Marsalis "I Heard You Twice the First Time" The best show I ever attended was...I have a few. Kenny Garrett in Kansas City 1996, Branford Marsalis at the Village Vanguard about 2005, Joshua Redman at the Village Vanguard 2000, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, and Brian Blade at Carnegie Hall 2004, Roy Hargrove—pretty much every concert he played, and Christian McBride at Dizzy's Club 2015. My advice to new listeners...listen to everything. Be open to new artists ad sounds, and listen to what inspires you. There's no wrong music, just music that's good or bad (to paraphrase Duke Ellington).

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