Saxophonist Joshua Redman Joins San Francisco Conservatory of Music as Artistic Director of Roots, Jazz, and American Music

Photo credit Michael Wilson

On Tuesday night, viewers of San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s live Tiny Dorm concert were the first to hear that acclaimed saxophonist Joshua Redman will join SFCM as Artistic Director of Roots, Jazz, and American Music. The RJAM program is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between SFCM and SFJAZZ, one of the world’s preeminent jazz-presenting organizations, located only two blocks from the Conservatory’s Oak Street campus.

“When we launched RJAM three years ago, we set out to create an innovative program that would prepare the next generation of jazz musicians for multi-faceted, entrepreneurial careers,” said SFCM President David Stull. “Building the program with our faculty and watching our first RJAM students flourish has been tremendously rewarding. Now with Joshua Redman at the helm, our students have direct access to some of the greatest minds—and players—in jazz.”

“I recently heard some RJAM students perform and I was just blown away,” said Joshua Redman. “They sounded well-studied, highly proficient, fluent, energetic, virtuosic—everything you would expect from serious young jazz players today—yet strikingly also with their own emergent identities and approaches. I am delighted to be joining them on their musical journeys.”

In his role as Artistic Director, Redman will work alongside RJAM Director Jason Hainsworth, reflecting a real-world model of artistic and administrative leadership. The duo will cultivate a bold joint vision for the program, leveraging SFCM’s diverse and performance-rich environment to give students the tools they need to succeed as working professional musicians. Redman will share his expertise with students in one-on-one sessions, studio classes, ensembles, and lectures.

“Joshua Redman is a bona fide modern jazz icon, and our students are going to benefit immediately from his rich real-life experiences as a world-class performer, Grammy-nominated recording artist, and active touring musician,” said Hainsworth. “I’m a huge fan of Josh’s work myself, and I can’t wait to see the impact he’ll have on the RJAM program.”

A Bay Area native born and raised in Berkeley, CA, Redman is the son of legendary saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer Renee Shedroff. After graduating summa cum laude from Harvard College and earning a coveted slot at Yale Law School, he opted to defer school for one year in order to move to New York and immerse himself in the jazz scene. Emboldened by an early win at the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition, Redman abandoned the idea of law school just a few months later, embarking instead on a musical career of extraordinary range.

Over a nearly 30-year career, Redman has released more than 20 albums, earning eight Grammy Award nominations in four different categories. He has performed with countless storied musicians, including jazz greats like McCoy Tyner, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Haden, Chick Corea, Ornette Coleman and Elvin Jones; popular music acts like Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, The Rolling Stones, The Roots, and Dave Matthews Band; and classical music icon Yo-Yo Ma.

Respected for his ability to spot emerging talent, Redman formed his first permanent quartet as a bandleader in 1994, with Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums. Following the release of their seminal quartet album, MoodSwing, these musicians have gone on to become some of the most important and influential musicians and bandleaders in modern jazz. This summer, the quartet will reunite for the first time in 25 years, touring their new release RoundAgain.

Fresh off that highly anticipated tour, Redman will officially join the SFCM faculty, in a full-circle moment with another San Francisco musical institution he has deeply influenced. From 2000–2007, Redman served as Artistic Director for SFJAZZ’s spring season, and in partnership with the organization’s executive director Randall Kline, Redman co-founded the SFJAZZ Collective—an idea that The New York Times hailed as a “eureka moment.”

The ripple effects of that artistic vision can be seen in the RJAM program, now in its third year, which prepares the next generation of great jazz artists by engaging students in an innovative model of apprenticeship with world-renowned faculty, including Collective members. RJAM students enjoy also access to SFJAZZ’s rich array of performances, which include fresh arrangements of works by modern masters and newly commissioned pieces.

To prepare students for multi-faceted career paths, RJAM students train as both performers and composers. RJAM curriculum was developed to ensure students can walk into the real world the day after they graduate, knowing how to advocate for themselves and how to succeed in the kind of complex professional environments in which Redman has excelled.

“Joshua Redman is one of the greatest jazz artists of our time,” said RJAM junior Amelie Hinman ’21. “He’s worked with numerous legends across genres and is constantly working to carry on the legacy of jazz and keep it in the hearts and minds of future generations. His eclectic musical background and vision will fuel and inspire all of us in the RJAM program, and I am excited to see the Bay Area’s very own tenor titan join our star-studded faculty at SFCM.”

In addition to Jason Hainsworth and Joshua Redman, the RJAM faculty includes numerous luminaries in the field, including current SFJAZZ Collective members saxophonist David Sánchez, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Edward Simon, and bassist Matt Brewer; vocalists Carmen Bradford and Clairdee; saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown; trumpeter Michael Rodriguez; trombonist Steve Davis; guitarists Julian Lage and Randy Vincent; pianist and jazz history professor Rebeca Mauleón (SFJAZZ’s Director of Education); and percussionists Carlos Caro and Matt Wilson.

“In my freshman year alone, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to perform alongside eminent musicians such as Warren Wolf and Matt Wilson at SFJAZZ’s Miner Auditorium,” said RJAM vocal student Lola Miller-Henline ’23. “I’ve also been able to share music as a means of giving back to the community, singing in an assisted living facility in the city as a part of our Conservatory Connect Program. RJAM’s distinctiveness lies in the one-of-a-kind opportunities it gives its students, from the remarkable faculty and guest artists to the constant push for professional experience and support for creative freedom. As a member, I have truly found my calling.”