Arturo O’Farrill Appointed Professor of Music and Bill Evans Fellow at Mannes School of Music and the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music
For the past few years, Arturo O’Farrill has served as a member of the part-time faculty at School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, building a following and earning the affection of students. Now, the College of Performing Arts has appointed O’Farrill a Professor of Music, where he will also serve as the Bill Evans Fellow in recognition of the great jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans, who attended Mannes in the 1950s.
“It is thrilling to become a part of an institution that mirrors so much of my aesthetic: forward-looking yet respectful of the roots, engaged in conversation about culture and its relationship to who we are as arts practitioners, and the larger conversation about how all of it relates to the world outside of elitism and the arts. I am also deeply honored to be named a Bill Evans Fellow. Bill’s harmonic experimentation led to much of the sound we call jazz,” said O’Farrill.
O’Farrill is a multi-GRAMMY Award-winning artist who is a perfect fit for the genre and style-defying aspirations of Mannes and Jazz, as well as the experimental history of the performing arts at The New School. As part of this new appointment, he will join the piano faculty at Jazz and the music composition faculty at Mannes, as well as direct ensembles, teach in the Master of Music Performer-Composer program, create new projects, and more. The departmental appointments recognize the wide-ranging nature of O’Farrill’s practice, which includes his work as a performer, composer, band and organizational leader, community builder, force for social justice through creativity, and superb educator.
“We are enormously grateful to have Arturo O’Farrill join our faculty as a full professor,” said Richard Kessler, Executive Dean of the College of Performing Arts and Dean of Mannes. “Arturo’s particular brand of shape shifting as an artist and natural leadership abilities are so very much in line with who we strive to be as an arts education institution. I am eager to see the impact that Arturo’s regular presence will have on our students, faculty, and staff in our college, but also across the entirety of the university.”
The acclaimed pianist, composer, and educator Arturo O’Farrill was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. Arturo’s professional career began with the Carla Bley Band and continued as a solo performer with a wide spectrum of artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, and Harry Belafonte.
In 2007, he founded the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Afro Latin music. In 2023, the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance transformed into Belongó whose mission is to perform, educate about, and protect the music of all of the Americas, emanating from African and indigenous roots, through the entry point of jazz. Learn more about Belongó here.
In December 2010, O’Farrill traveled with the original Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra to Cuba, returning his father’s musicians to his homeland. He continues to travel to Cuba regularly as a Cultural Ambassador, working with Cuban musicians, dancers, and students, bringing local musicians from Cuba to the US, and American musicians to Cuba.O’Farrill has performed with orchestras and bands including his own 18-piece Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and Arturo O’Farrill Sextet, as well as other Orchestras and intimate ensembles in the US, Europe, Russia, Australia, and South America.
An avid supporter of all the arts, he has performed with Ballet Hispanico and the Malpaso Dance Company, for whom he has written three ballets. In addition, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company has in its repertoire a ballet entitled Open Door, choreographed by Ron Brown to several of O’Farrill’s compositions and recordings. Ron Brown’s own Evidence Dance Company commissioned him to compose New Conversations, which premiered in the Summer of 2018 at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, MA.
O’Farrill has received commissions from Meet the Composer, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Philadelphia Music Project, The Apollo Theater, Symphony Space, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Young People’s Chorus of New York, Columbia University and the New York State Council on the Arts.
O’Farrill’s well-reviewed and highly praised “Afro-Latin Jazz Suite” from the album CUBA: The Conversation Continues (Motéma) took the 2016 GRAMMY Award for ”Best Instrumental Composition” and the 2016 Latin GRAMMY Award for “Best Latin Jazz Album.” His powerful “Three Revolutions” from the album Familia-Tribute to Chico and Bebo was the 2018 GRAMMY Award (his sixth) winner for “Best Instrumental Composition.” Arturo’s album “Four Questions” (ZOHO) is the first to embody all original compositions, including the title track, which features the brilliant orator Dr. Cornel West. This album won a GRAMMY in 2021. Most recently, in February of 2023, Arturo was awarded his eighth GRAMMY for the album, Fandango at the Wall in New York.
O’Farrill was “Artist In Residence” for The Greene Space in New York City, for which he created a four-concert series including a newly commissioned composition. The series title was “Radical Acts and Musical Deviancy.”
In 2020, O’Farrill’s weekly concerts with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, dubbed “Virtual Birdland,” topped the list of “10 Best Quarantine Concerts” in The New York Times.O’Farrill has been honored as a Steinway Artist for many years, and is a Blue Note Records recording artist. O’Farrill comes to this new appointment having served as Professor of Global Jazz Studies and Assistant Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).