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Saxophonist, Multi-Reedist, Composer/ Arranger, Recording Artist, Bandleader and Educator Sharel Cassity (pron.“Sha-Relle”) is a prominent musician on the New York jazz sand music scene known for her fiery and soulful style of improvising. Listed as “Rising Star Alto Saxophone” in Downbeat Magazine for the past 9 consecutive years, Sharel has appeared on the Today Show,won the 2007 ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award & has been inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Her four albums released as a leader have received top rated reviews in publications like JazzTimes, Jazziz, Downbeat & American Indian News & earned her a cover story in Saxophone Journal. Cassity’s latest album “Evolve” was recorded with her new band ELEKTRA and appears on her record label, Relsha Music. This album is a jazz mix-genre project with a cast of top NYC musicians, featuring a collection of artful originals and reimagined compositions by pop artists.
Selected to attend The Juilliard School Jazzprogramunder full scholarship in 2007 for her Masters in Music& holding a BFA from The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music, Cassity is a skilled and versatile sideman who is a regular member of the Dizzy Gillespie Afro Cuban Experience,Nicholas Payton’s TSO, Cyrus Chestnut’s Brubeck Quartet, the Revive the Live Big Band and the Jimmy Heath BigBand. She also performs regularly alongside renowned Grammy winningartists Roy Hargrove, Lewis Nash, Joe Chambers & Darcy James Argue. Sharel has toured 24 countries and performed at leading venues like the Newport Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival & the North Sea Jazz Festival. Additionally, she has shared the stage with Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz @ Lincoln Center Orchestra, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Natalie Cole, Rufus Reid, Gregory Porter, Phil Woods, Slide Hampton, Maceo Parker and Terrence Blanchard. She was lead alto in the Diva Jazz Orchestra from 2007-2014 and performed in the Broadway musical After Midnight as well as Maurice Hines’ Off-Broadway production, Tappin’ Through Life.
In mainstream genres Sharel joined Top 40 hit singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant on her 2015 CD/ DVD recording & has also performed with are Aretha Franklin, Vanessa Williams, K.D. Lang, Fantasia, Trisha Yearwood, Seth MacFarland (Family Guy), Ruben Blades & DJ Logic. Cassity performed in a 2013 ESPN Super Bowl commercial and can be seen in the PBS Television Broadcast “Juilliard Centennial Celebration”. Honored to be included in three books, Sharel appears in “I Walked with Giants” by Jimmy Heath, “AM Jazz: Three Generations under the Lens” by Adrianna Mateo and “Freedom of Expression: Interviews with Women in Jazz” by Chris Becker. While in college she was chosen to attend IAJE Sisters in Jazz, Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead, Ravinia at Steans Institute & was the recipient of numerous Downbeat Student Music Awards.
In addition to performing, Sharel has always been passionate about teaching and inspiring future generations of musicians. Currently a Professor of Saxophone and Piano at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Illinois, Sharel served internationally as the Woodwind Professor at Qatar Music Academy in Doha, Qatar from 2016-17. She has taught students abroad in Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico, China and Qatar and has given numerous clinics on saxophone techniques, jazz language, rhythm, harmony and music business.
Moving frequently throughout her childhood , Sharel’s family eventually settled in Yukon, Oklahoma where she graduated high school. In 2000 she moved to New York City where she resided for 16 years, earning her degrees while thriving on the NYC jazz scene. She recently relocated to the Chicago area with her husband and son. Sharel is proud to be a Vandoren Performing Artist, RS Berkeley Virtuoso Saxophone Artist and AMT Microphone Artist.