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Art Lillard

Composer, arranger, bandleader, lyricist, and drummer Art Lillard grew up in Miami, where his jazz roots include playing with the great master Ira Sullivan and studying with pianist/composer Wally Cirillo. Art also studied at Karl Berger’s Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York, where his instructors included Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Stu Martin, and John Surman. Subsequently, he graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston with a bachelor’s degree in composition and arranging, having garnered multiple scholarships and honors along the way. Art has also studied with Dean Anderson, Steve Bagby, Tom Boras, Paul Caputo, Andrew Cyrille, Mike Gibbs, Mike Holober, Greg Hopkins, Joe Hunt, Jim McNeely, Portinho, Maria Schneider, Kenny Werner, and Eliot Zigmund.

Art’s nine-horn Heavenly Big Band has been playing in clubs and concert spaces since 1987. Their compact disc, “Reasons to be Thankful,” was released on the Summit Records label in 2006, and their “Certain Relationships” in 2015. Art’s On Time Band, a trio/quartet that has been performing for many years, produced a recording, “It’s Time,” released by Summit in 2009. In 1998, Art's seven-piece swing band, Blue Heaven, appeared on television playing original compositions on two episodes of CBS's daytime series, "Guiding Light.”

A professional musician since 1970, Art has had a rich performing career. He has led and co-led many jazz ensembles. He has also played drums as a sideman in groups of various musical genres, including jazz, country & western, cabaret, rock, and show music. He has recorded with some of these groups. Along the way, he has played with such jazz luminaries as Ben Brown, Jaki Byard, Gilly Coggins, Junior Cook, Kenny Davern, Buddy DeFranco, Joe Diorio, Bobby Forrester, Eric Gunnison, Greg Hopkins, Paul Horn, Nancy King, Cecil McBee, Arturo O’Farrill, the aforementioned Ira Sullivan, and many more.

Art has written hundreds of compositions in a wide range of musical genres and is often commissioned by performers, producers and other composers to arrange music for vocalists and instrumental groups. Art’s original works appear on cd recordings by vibraphonist Gust Tsilis, vocalist Larry Browne, saxophonist Claire Daly, flutist Jan Leder, the band Groovalaya, and the duo of guitarist Pere Soto and saxophonist David Valdez. Art also wrote and scored the soundtrack for a film, “The Wannabees.” Some of his compositions can be heard on episodes of the MTV productions, “Jackass” and “Cat House,” and on HBO’s “True Blood,” as well as in the 2014 movie, “Teacher of the Year,” and an online commercial for Mercedes Benz.

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What Reviewers Say about the Heavenly Band’s CD, “Reasons to be Thankful”

A solid ensemble with soloists who can ideate with the best - John Gilbert, EjazzNews

File this one under: Swingin' NYC Big Band! - Michael P. Gladstone, AllAboutJazz

Lillard’s variable-pitch drum solo on “Bluez Organ Man,” and the song’s incredible fusion of Caribbean percussion with big band, is one of the session’s high points. - Jim Santella, AllAboutJazz

Reasons to be Thankful is a recording of fresh original material with wonderful orchestration and a unique way of blending the swing fad and the modern big band sound in one setting. This album merits many reasons to be thankful, which lovers of the big band sound will recognize. - Edward Blanco, AllAboutJazz

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Primary Instrument



New York City

Willing to teach

Beginner to advanced


TEACHING EXPERIENCE 2001-present and 1986-94 Maggio Music, Brooklyn, NY. Teach drums, flute, piano. 2001- 2003 New York City Public Schools. Substitute teacher (music). Spring 2001 Public School 226, Brooklyn, NY. Taught music theory, flute-recorder, and instrumental music to middle school classes. 1997 Bromley Studio, Brooklyn, NY. Taught various instruments. 1996 Music faculty, Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY

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