Neal Andrew Spitzer
My current group, The Neal Spitzer Ensemble, continues to perform and tour. We are planning our Spring and Summer Tour to promote two new EP releases featuring original songs and arrangements. All new releases will stream on Apple Music, Spotify, Youtube, and a plethora of other streaming platforms. Tour dates will be updated on the website as the dates come in!! We hope to be playing for you soon!
I grew up in a musical household centered around my mother, Rosalie Gutride Spitzer, and her career as a concert pianist and music educator. I woke up to her practicing the piano, came home from school to her teaching lessons, and fell asleep to her practicing the piano again, and again, and again. To this day, the sound of a solo pianist is the most soothing and relaxing situation on this planet for me. For a large part of her career, she was President of The Society For New Music in Central New York where she actively promoted and performed Classical New Music. She played premiere works by John Cage, Shulamit Ran, and Ahmad Jamal to name a few. I mention this because these and many other composers/performers were routinely in my house as I grew up.
After studying piano and drums at an early age, I started playing clarinet at the age of 7. I was quickly switched to the Bass Clarinet and found myself being driven at 6:30am to attend the Middle School Band Rehearsals as they didn't have any Bass Clarinets. In 9th grade I picked up the Alto Sax and was quickly switched to The Baritone Saxophone and entered the Stage Band at Nottingham High School. I was accepted into The Stan Collela Syracuse City All Star Orchestra, playing clarinet and alto saxophone throughout High School, which included many paid engagements. In addition, I played in a number of pit orchestras for Syracuse Stage and other area productions.
While at Brandeis University, I forged a relationship with the great Tenor Saxophone Player and Composer Ricky Ford. Ricky was an adjunct professor at Brandeis studying 12-Tone Theory. He quickly took me under his tutelage on clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophone. During my four years at Brandeis and the following two years that I lived in Boston, Ricky Ford had me in the first tenor chair as a student and then as a hired musician. I was able to play with many of the greats including Milt Hinton, David Amram, Stafford James, Houston Person, Dave Liebman, Amina Claudine Myers, Steve Lacy, Jaki Byard, Avery Sharpe, Ran Blake, and many others. I also auditioned on classical clarinet while at Brandies and was awarded a scholarship to study privately with members of the Lydian String Quartet. During my college years, I was commissioned by The Society for New Music to compose a piece, Mustela Ermine, which was performed as part of their concert series. I also worked throughout college as a clinician for The Society for New Music and The Central New York Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Larry Luttinger.
After graduating Brandeis in 1990, I continued to play music while starting a career as a research scientist. I did a number of gigs as a sideman and played with Ricky Ford's Fusion Band on saxophone on a few dates. For a few years I was touring with the Band Shockra. We played 100s of shows throughout New England and warmed up for Phish at Club Casino in 1991 during their Horn Tour. It was Ricky's suggestion that I travel to NYC to attend the New School. He put me in touch with Jaki Byard and off I went. My time at The New School turned me into a full time musician. Arnie Lawrence graciously accepted me as his student and my life changed dramatically. I always consider Arnie as my second father as he not only nurtured me as a musician, but he helped me break into the world of Jazz. Arnie and I would go on to play numerous gigs with such greats as Jimmy Cobb, Frank Luther, and Bobby Johnson. What I learned from Arnie was how to be a great player and a great teacher. My other teachers included Andrew Cyrille, Bernard Purdie, Charles Tolliver, Chico Hamilton, and Charlie Persip (I love drummers). I also studied arranging with Kirk Nurock and Maria Schneider while attending the New School. I continue to arrange and write to this day for all aspects of my musical career. This includes full scores for Big Band, Orchestra, and Small Jazz Ensembles.
My Education includes a BS in Biology from Brandeis University (1990), a MFA from The New School for Jazz Performance (1993), and a Masters in Education from Columbia University's Teachers College (2005). I was able to maintain at 4.0 Average at Teacher's College for my Masters. As Charlie Persip would say, I'm not bragging, I'm just proud of how hard I've worked. My teaching career spanned 27 years culminating in 18 years as The Band Director at Washington Irving Elementary Public School in Tarrytown. One of my ensembles auditioned and was accepted to play alongside The Orchestra of St. Lukes at Carnegie Hall! Prior to Washington Irving, I worked as a music teacher for 2 years at PS16X in the Bronx. This was preceded by my work for the NYC Board of Education as a teaching artist for LEAP. Learning through the Extended Arts Program (LEAP) is a direct result of NYC’s Project Arts Fund. Through residencies in over 20 Elementary NYC Public Schools, I trained over 150 Classroom teachers how to integrate music and drama into their existing curriculum. My first foray into teaching began at The Woodstock Day School where I taught for one year in their Montessori Preschool followed by two years as their General Music Teacher.
I am presently running The Jitterbugs Jazz for Kids music program at The Jazz Forum for ages 2-7. Jazz Forum Arts’ Jitterbugs program explores the culture, history, and sounds of Jazz and Jazz music. We help kids understand important musical concepts and learn about innovative artists who paved the way for jazz to flourish and develop as a unique art form to this day.
My credits as a musician continue to grow. From running Jam sessions in. Woodstock, NY with Stefan Lessard (Dave Matthews Band) on Acoustic Bass to.playing and arranging for Corey Glover (Living Colour), I strive to play the best and with the best. It is amazing to say that I have been able to perform with Jimmy Cobb, Arnie Lawrence, Ricky Ford, Lew Soloff, David Amram, Mark Morganelli's Jazz Forum All-Stars, Cameron Brown, Jonathan Kreisberg, Bakithi Kumalo, Michael Mossman, and many others. It is all a dream come true. I have toured with a number of bands internationally including Kokolo Afrobeat Ensemble and worked throughout the Northeast and parts of Canada as a sideman for countless musicians.
My performing group, The Neal Spitzer Ensemble, has been performing my original music for almost 30 years. After retiring from teaching last year, I have embarked on two new Full Length EPs to be released this Spring and next Fall. They will feature many of my original recordings and arrangements. Please stay tuned for updates and release dates.
In additon to my upcoming EP releases, I have played on numerous recordings that have been commercially released with my tracks. Many of which were recorded in my studio. Most recently are my releases with Joe Ferry's Big Ska Band featuring Corey Glover on vocals. We are officially on The Shanachie recording label and distributed by Jump Up Records. My duo work with Arnie Warmbrand, The Tunester and The Sideman, has just released a New CD entitled Old Tunes Restored featuring myself on clarinet, soprano sax, and tenor sax. My funk band, Gridline, has also released it's full length CD, Soul Brew, recorded at Sabela studio on Long Island which features myself on saxophone and EWI (electronic wind instrument).
In addition to playing, teaching and arranging music, I have been lucky to also forge a career as a sound engineer. I began mixing monitors for the touring band, Shockra, while also performing. When I came to NYC in 1992, I landed a job doing the house sound at Sweet Basil for Miles Evans Big Band on Monday Nights. This led to some other engagements at Sweet Basil for their weekly acts including such greats as Jaki Byard, Dewey Redman and David Murray. At the same time, I was mixing sound for The New School Jazz Concert Series at their theater on 6th Avenue. I had the honor of doing sound for Max Roach, Stanley Turrentine, Bernard Purdie, Hank Jones, Dave Liebman and many others at these concerts.
I am currently doing sound at The Jazz Forum in Tarrytown, NY. I have had the pleasure to mix an incredible line up of musicians including Rene Rosnes, Christian Sands, David Amram, Bob James, Eliane Elias, and many more.