Sunday, February 23, 2014

5 Questions with Ben Bilello

Ben Bilello (BM ’99), studied Jazz Studies/African American Music (percussion) at Hartt from 1995 to 1999.  He is currently living in Durham, Connecticut.  

What have you been up to since you graduated from Hartt?

I have been a full time professional musician, private instructor,  jazz and percussion educator and clinician since I graduated in 1999. I have performed and/or recorded with Mulgrew Miller, Eddie Henderson,  Branford Marsalis, Anthony Braxton, Javon Jackson, Charles Flores, Curtis Fuller, Larry Willis, George Cables, Steve Davis and Charmaine Clamor, as well as many others.

I was a faculty member of the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts from 2005 to 2013. While there, I taught percussion, jazz drumming, rudimental drumming and music theory.

I met my wife, Lauren, in 2001. We were married in 2007. We have a son, Michael, who just turned one year old in January.

I have a small side business in the fly fishing industry. I stopped fishing after leaving for college, but got back into it in my late twenties. My favorite quarry is the Atlantic salmon. I traveled to Russia’s Kola Peninsula, 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in June 2012. I fished the Kola and Kitza Rivers, renowned for having some of the world’s largest and toughest Atlantic salmon. 

What are you involved with right now?

At the moment, my most important job is raising my son. I had to cut back on teaching and I can’t take every gig that is offered, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I perform as much as possible, most notably in trio collaboration with pianist Laurence Hobgood and bassist Henry Lugo.

For the past few months, I have been working with Javon Jackson, the new chair of the Hartt’s Jackie McLean Jazz Institute. Under Professor Jackson’s leadership, and along with fellow Hartt alumni Stephen Porter and Andrew Renfroe, we have given clinics at local schools and lecture/performances as part of the University of Harford’s President’s College.

I will be appearing on two albums to be released in the very near future. One is with vocalist Atla DeChamplain and pianist Matt DeChamplain, both Hartt alumni. The other, with vocalist June Bisantz, is a tribute to trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker.

I teach one day a week at UConn’s Community School of the Arts. Within the past year, I have built a home teaching and rehearsal studio. I offer lessons throughout the week as my schedule allows. 

What is one of your most memorable things about your time at Hartt?

Having the opportunity to study with Professor Jackie McLean was a terrific experience. He was truly a pioneer in the field of jazz education. Studying (and frequently playing) with a musician of Professor McLean’s pedigree and magnitude is not something most college jazz students have the chance to do. I feel extremely fortunate to have been at Hartt while Professor McLean was teaching there.  

What did you learn during your time at Hartt that you did not appreciate or recognize until after time passed and you had some time to reflect?

When I look back, I am amazed at how much free time I had compared to now. It certainly didn’t feel that way when I was a student. I practiced a fair amount while I was at Hartt, usually around four to six hours a day. Despite being fairly diligent, I could have made better use of  the free time I had (instead of hanging around the Hartt hallways or shooting pool at Gengras or the Hawk’s Nest).

Having a place to practice regularly was a luxury I took for granted. Until I became a homeowner, finding a place to practice was tricky at times. Now that I have a dedicated practice space (and a family), finding the time is the main issue. 

What is next for you?

In terms of professional endeavors, I have no idea. I have always taken opportunities as they arise. Often times they are unexpected. I have made my living as an accompanist, which I love, but I’d like to start to devote more time to projects under my own leadership. 

Thanks, Ben. If you want people to get in touch, how can they do so?

You can visit my website at or email me at

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ed Alton - 2014 Hartt Alumni Award Recipient

Bachelor of Music,
Double Bass/Composition '81

Hartt Alumni Award 2014

 The Hartt School is pleased to announce that Ed Alton, BMus ’81 will be honored with the 2014 Hartt Alumni Award at the annual Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 18, 2014. The award honors an alumnus who has achieved professional and critical recognition of distinguished professional accomplishments as an artist, scholar, or educator in an area of the performing arts.

Mr. Alton has sustained an impressive career in the Los Angeles TV, film and recording industries for nearly thirty years. To date, he has composed scores for over 530 episodes of 31 different prime time network TV series and performed as bassist on over 70 feature film soundtracks. His career has been distinguished by numerous accolades including five ASCAP Top TV Composer Awards, an Emmy Nomination, and several Gold & Platinum record awards.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hartt Guitar Department - 50th Anniversary Celebration

The following post is copied from the Alumni Newsletter of The Hartt School's Guitar Department.  I am re-posting it here to further encourage everyone to attend the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Guitar Department.
Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration

Hello all,

Plans are moving surprisingly smoothly for our fiftieth anniversary celebration. Thanks to grants from the Augustine Foundation and LaBella Strings as well as contributions by several of our alumni we are $1000. away from raising the necessary $14,500. needed to underwrite the cost of Andrew York’s concert and the commissioning of Frank Wallace’s incredible eight-part work, As it Could Be, for the celebration. I’m hoping that many of you will be able to contribute to the fund so that we can reach our goal. No gift is too small or too large. If you are so inclined, please make the check payable to the University of Hartford and send it to me % The Hartt School, 200 Bloomfield Ave., W. Hartford, CT 06117. I would like to be able to say that all of the money raised came from Foundations or alumni.

 What do we have planned?

 Friday, April 11: 7:30 Auerbach Auditorium:  Solo Recital by Andy York.

 We begin the celebration with a concert by Andy York.  Andy has been a friend of the department for many years and has graciously altered his fee to meet our limited resources. After the concert, we will hang out at the Republic, our new hangout just one mile from the University.

 Saturday, April 12:

Saturday we have a full schedule of events. All events are in Millard
     9:00 AM -11:00AM Open rehearsals At this point we are not sure what groups performing that evening will be rehearsing.
     11:30-12:30: Suzuki guitar presentation. Nick Cutroneo
     12:30-1:30:  John LaBarbara. New music for guitar
1:30- Break
      2:00 -5:00: Rehearsal for Attic by Andrew York alumni, students, faculty community. This will be the concluding work
     on this evening’s program
 5:00- 7:30: Dinner Break: If enough people are interested, the Republic will make the restaurant available to us for dinner.

 8:00 PM: Anniversary Concert: World Premiere of Frank Wallace’s As It Could Be, made possible by a grant from the 
Augustine Foundation.
1) Changes Upon the Guitar, violin, viola and seven guitars
2) A Tune Beyond Us, violin, viola and guitar
3) A Wisp in the Underground, guitar solo    
4) If to Serenade, flute and guitar
5) Tom-tom, c'est moi, percussion and guitar
6) The Whirling Noise, viola and guitar   
7) Crying Among the Clouds, guitar solo
8) A World Quite Round, guitar quartet


These eight works comprise As It Could Bea chamber suite dedicated to the Hartt School of Music Guitar Department and it's founder/director Richard Provost on the occasion of their 50th anniversary.  Dick suggested using The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens (a resident of Hartford, CT) as a source of lyrics for a song. I chose to use this incredible testimony to art as inspiration and have selected titles for all 8 pieces from the poem. Thank you Dick (and all your colleagues) who brought the guitar out of the dark ages and into a brilliant new community of creativity and progress through your courage, hard work and vision. Let us imagine a future as it could be.

The concert will conclude with a performance of Attic, by Andy York performed by students, area guitarists, and alumni of the department.

 If you will be attending and want to play in the guitar orchestra, (which I hope many of you will) please send Chris an email so that we can send you your part. ( goal is to have at least fifty guitarists on stage performing. If you are timid, rest assured that we will have a core group that has rehearsed and will cover all of the parts. They will be happy to help you during the rehearsal to get you comfortable for the performance. For those of you who have not been doing much with the guitar, this work was written for amateurs. There are several pretty basic parts in the work. If you’re still not sure, let Chris know and he will email you a part to see if your are up to the challenge.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hartt's Honorary Degrees Given in the 2000s

Between 2003 and 2009, Hartt awarded 5 Honorary Degrees.  The recipients were: Wynton Marsalis; Oscar Ghiglia; William Anthony Waters; Henry W, “Hank” Jones; and Donald Sinta.


2003 Wynton Marsalis

I don't think Mr. Marsalis needs an introduction.

Here is a link to Mr. Marsalis' website.

2004 Oscar Ghiglia

Oscar Ghiglia, an Italian classical guitarist, spent time in residence at Hartt.

 Additional information on Mr. Ghiglia can be found on his Wikipedia page.

2005 William Anthony Waters

Maestro Waters was a truly deserved recipient of the honorary degree from Hartt after his many years as a leader in the Connecticut arts community (which is not to say his music career and talents were limited to Connecticut, as he enjoys a career well-beyond the borders of the Nutmeg State).

Additional information about Maestro Waters can be found here.