About Russell Scarbrough
Russell Scarbrough is a composer and trombonist living in Rochester, New York. He studied composition with Hank Levy at Towson State University, and Bill Dobbins at the Eastman School of Music. He received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Eastman in 2008.
As a composer, Scarbrough’s compelling, visceral works reflect a diverse array of musical resources, drawing equal parts from the jazz tradition and contemporary classical music. At times his music is unabashedly melodic, at others, filled with unpredictable rhythmic energy, full of rich contrasts and an avoidance of cliché. On the other hand, he is comfortable in the role of commercial arranger, able to bring beauty and outstanding craftsmanship to a wide range of musical situations.
Scarbrough's music is regularly performed by professional ensembles of all kinds across the United States and around the world. He has received over 40 commissions for original works for jazz ensemble, orchestra, wind ensemble, instrumental soloist, chamber ensemble, and mixed media, frequently working in close collaboration with ensembles. He directs two main projects for showcasing his original music and arrangements: his 19-piece ensemble, the Russell Scarbrough Jazz Orchestra, features his own works in a strikingly original voice; while his 12-piece Soul-Jazz Big Band features his arrangements of classic jazz from the 1960's and 70's.
At Eastman his music was performed by classical and jazz ensembles and featured in such high-profile events as the Rochester International Jazz Festival, the Eastman Jazz Showcase and the Eastman Commencement Ceremony. He played trombone in the new music ensemble Ossia, the Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra, the Eastman Trombone Choir and Bionic Bones, the Eastman Jazz Ensemble, New Jazz Ensemble and the Dave Rivello Ensemble. He was awarded the Raymond and Maxine Schirmer Prize in Jazz Composition, and in 2005, he became the first recipient of the "Billy Joel Scholarship" at Eastman. In receiving this award, Scarbrough composed a major new work: a 28-minute, three movement Concerto Grosso for Jazz Quintet and Orchestra, premiered by the Eastman Studio Orchestra. Since 2003, he has been the principal arranger for the Bemus Bay Pops Orchestra, arranging more than 50 works for orchestra alone or with vocals.
As a trombonist, Scarbrough was Assistant Principal Trombone in the Gettysburg Symphony Orchestra from 1990-1995, performing the Rimsky-Korsakov Concerto for Trombone during the 1992-1993 season. He studied trombone with John Gifford, John Melick, Wayne Wells, Harry Watters, Mark Kellogg, and John Marcellus. As a performer, he has shared the stage with a host of jazz greats, including Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Bob Brookmeyer, Johnny Mathis, Marian McPartland, Peter Erskine, Dick Oatts, Rufus Reid, Bob Sheppard, Conrad Herwig, Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis, Chuck Mangione, Pat LaBarbera, John Nugent, Byron Stripling, Marvin Stamm, Frank Tiberi, John Fedchock, Danny Gottlieb, Gary Foster, Barry Harris, Joey Sellers, Frank Vignola, Chuck Marohnic, Greg Hopkins, Jim Snidero, and Charlie Byrd.
In the 1990's, Scarbrough spent several years in Phoenix, Arizona where he worked with tuba virtuoso Sam Pilafian and was the first director of the Concert Jazz Band II at Arizona State University. He recorded with the Mahronic-Pilafian-Hopkins Jazz Nonet on their 1997 release, "Hidden Agenda" (later re-titled "Jazz!"), on Summit Records, revisiting the music of Miles Davis's "Birth of the Cool" sessions.
From 2005 to 2013, Scarbrough was director of the Roberts Wesleyan College Jazz Ensemble. The ensemble regularly performed his original compositions, and featured well-known jazz artists. During his tenure, the ensemble was known for its excellence in a diversity of styles, from the classics of big band jazz to cutting-edge works by emerging composers.
“[Bow Shock] is a jazz-tinged, driving, hyper-energetic work that invites the listener to fasten his seatbelt for the ride. It was a win-win-win: the Irreras can be well pleased that this work shows them to such great advantage. Scarbrough should be delighted with such accomplished musicians giving his music such a dynamic performance.”
Jeffrey Williams, New York Concert Review, New York, NY
“Wonderful music, lovely... Lyrical, sweet and filled with anticipated motion! Bravo!”
Peter Sheridan, low flutes specialist, Monash University, Australia
“The arrangements not only look beautiful (and are free of errors -- how do you do that?) but are superbly crafted... You really made it possible for me to have the program I intended.”
Dr. Grant Cochran, artistic director, Anchorage Concert Chorus
“If you want to hear the jazz orchestra music of the future, check out the Russell Scarbrough Big Band... the stars of the show may be Scarbrough's innovative compositions and distinctive arrangements, using the big band palette in fresh and decidedly different ways.”
Ron Netsky, Rochester City Paper
“Russell Scarbrough has a growing collection of engaging, challenging, and innovative large ensemble charts for serious musicians. He has a fresh voice as a writer and is a humble and passionate conductor. This music needs to be widely performed!”
Bill Tiberio, Jazz Ensemble Director, Fairport (NY) HS; University of Rochester, and Eastman Community Music School
“Russell's music is as colorful as it is thoughtful. There is not an easier person to work with on special projects such as these, and THAT makes music making all the more enjoyable!”
Tom Davis, composer, K-12 Music Supervisor, Canandaigua City School District, Canandaigua, NY
“...My students and I especially loved the time he spent with us working on the piece. It was a great experience for them to hear about the piece straight from the composer. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in a great jazz ensemble piece to look no further. The personal attention and outstanding music will make it an experience both you and your students will remember for a lifetime.”
Brian Ecton, Director of Instrumental Music, Calvert Hall College, Baltimore, MD
“Working with Scarbrough has been a wonderful experience for our ensemble! They were thrilled to receive a commission that recognized their strengths and potential in extremely creative ways.”
Barry Long, Jazz Band Director, Bucknell University
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Conducting shot (photo: Chris Bennett)