A group of musicians in suits poising for a photo

From Left to Right: Eugene Uman (Jazz Piano), Jason Robinson (Assistant Professor of Jazz and Popular Music), Ann Maggs (Voice), Bruce Diehl (Director of Jazz Performance Program) David Picchi (Bass), Claire Arenius (Drums),  Joe Belmont (Guitar, retired in 2022), Geoff Cunningham (Trumpet), Carl Clements (Saxophone). Missing: Prof. Darryl Harper '90, David Sporny (Trombone), and Joe LaCreta (Guitar).

The Amherst College Music Department provides many different outlets to explore jazz in an academic setting. Each semester, the Music Department offers at least one jazz theory course as well as other less theoretical jazz and pop courses. The Music Department also allows for students to collaborate with jazz professors and create their own “special topics” course. These courses usually contain no more than three students and have dealt with a slew of jazz topics within the last few years.

Amherst students also have the opportunity to take private jazz-based music lessons for academic credit with a member of the Jazz@Amherst adjunct faculty. Members of the Jazz Band and Jazz Combos can also receive academic credit for their participation. Lessons are offered in jazz for drums, guitar, bass, piano, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, and voice.

Lessons with a jazz focus can be made available for any instrument.

Have a gig?

These are some ideas that will make your experience more positive in each gig you do.

Claire Arenius


In addition to performing & composing, Claire also serves as an educator, an adjunct faculty of music at Amherst College and at Smith College, and as a clinician for various educational jazz programs. Claire Arenius has been actively performing in jazz for almost 30 years. Her formative years were spent studying music at Univ. of Mass. where Archie Shepp and Max Roach were on faculty

Claire relocated to N.Y. after receiving a National Endowment Grant to study with master drummer, Charli Persip; which led to her joining trombonist/arranger Melba Liston's group and to performances at Carnegie Hall, Seaport, Blues Alley, The Bottom Line, and other major jazz venues. She toured Europe as the drummer for guitar master Attila Zoller's Trio, playing the major Jazz Festivals in Germany, Austria & Switzerland. She has also performed/recorded with many renowned jazz artists, including Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, Ray Copeland, Slide Hampton, Mose Allison, Sheila Jordan & others. Claire has recently released her debut CD as a leader, "When Worlds Touch You", featuring all her original compositions, with a trio including Eugene Uman & Thomson Kneeland. They were recently featured performing in South America at Medellin, Colombia‘s International Millennium Jazz Festival; and also at this year‘s Discover Jazz Festival in Burlington, Vt.

For booking info, or to order CDs:

Carl Clements


Carl Clements (saxophones/flutes/bamboo flute) received a BM in Jazz Composition and Arranging from the Berklee College of Music in 1987, an MFA in Jazz Performance from the California Institute of the Arts in 1990, completed a year of study in the DMA program in World Music at the New England Conservatory, and received a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2010. His Ph.D. dissertation is entitled "Pannalal Ghosh and the Bānsurī in the Twentieth Century" (see abstract), and his writing is published in various academic books and journals (see Academic Resume). He has studied North Indian classical music on the bansuri (North Indian bamboo flute) since 1989 with Dave Philipson, Amiya Dasgupta, Steve Gorn, Devendra Murdeshwar, George Ruckert, Peter Row, and Nityanand Haldipur.

He is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Hampshire College, and is an active performer and composer of jazz and world music. Find more info at

Geoff Cunningham

Jazz Trumpet

Raised in Connecticut and educated at UMass Amherst under the direction of Jeff Holmes, Geoff Cunningham's sound is influenced by jazz trumpet greats such as Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, and Woody Shaw. Geoff is a diversely experienced musician who plays throughout New England in a variety of musical settings, including a regular chair in the Amherst Jazz Orchestra and the Jeff Holmes Big Band, and can also be found teaching music lessons and classes at Amherst College, Greenfield Commnity College, and Holyoke Community College.

Bruce Diehl

Director of Jazz Performance, Senior Lecturer in Jazz Improvisation/Theory

Bruce Diehl has been teaching and performing in Amherst, MA since 1993. In 1995, he completed his Masters of Music Degree in Jazz Composition and Arranging at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His composition/arranging teachers included Jeff Holmes, Yusef Lateef, and Frederick Tillis while studying saxophone with Lynn Klock and Wayne Tice.

Bruce did his undergraduate studies at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY, graduating in 1990. At Eastman, he completed two bachelor's degrees, one in Saxophone Performance, the other in Music Education. He studied with saxophonist/author Ramon Ricker, Albert Regni, and with the late Rayburn Wright. Performances at Eastman included the Eastman Jazz Ensemble, Eastman Wind Ensemble (in which he toured Japan in 1990 and recorded a disc, Live in Japan (for CBS/Sony), and performances with Bill Dobbins, Ramon Ricker, Branford Marsalis, Louis Bellson, Clark Terry, Steve Houghton, and Paquito D'Rivera.

Prior to his work at Amherst College, Bruce was Director of Instrumental Music and Jazz Studies at Northfield Mount Hermon School, a private boarding school serving grades 9-12. His responsibilities at NMH included directing the then newly-formed Concert Band, the NMH Jazz Ensemble, and the Jazz Combo. He taught Saxophone, Jazz History, Jazz Theory and Arranging, and Electronic Music at NMH. He was the founder and coordinator of the annual NMH Jazz Festival, hosting such artists as Robert Levy, Rob Tapper, Eric Applegate, and David Sporny (with the Amherst Jazz Orchestra).  Bruce also directed the Smith College Jazz Ensemble and Wind Ensemble from 2000-2006.

Currently, Bruce is a Director of Jazz Performance at Amherst College. His responsibilities at Amherst include directing the Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combos, teaching jazz improvisation, jazz theory,  and jazz arranging/composition.  In addition, he curates the Jazz@Schwemm's performance series that takes place in October and March.

Bruce remains active as a clinician, performer and guest director at jazz festivals. The summer of 2001 saw Bruce teach at the inaugural season of the Jazz Dialogues Summer Camp at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA, and he has been back in subsequent summers. He has spent 11 summers (1988-1995, 1999-2001) teaching saxophone and jazz-related courses and directing various ensembles at Camp Encore/Coda, a music camp for ages 8-18 in Sweden, Maine.  He is a regular member of the Jeff Holmes Big Band and has taught saxophone, jazz education, and directed combos since 2006 at Jazz in July, a summer jazz school hosted at UMASS.  He has performed several times with the Springfield Symphony Pops.  He has directed Junior and Senior High District Jazz Festivals in Western MA and Vermont, as well as the Maine All State Jazz Combo in 2012.  His album "Bug Juice" (2014) has enjoyed success and has received air time on the local FM radiowaves.

Darryl Harper

Assistant Professor of Music, Director of the Center for Humanistic Inquiry

Darryl Harper began studying clarinet at age six in his native Philadelphia and was introduced to jazz at 16 by trombonist Anthony Hurdle. Within a year he was working professionally and began sitting in at sessions and performing with Tony Williams, Tyrone Brown, Eddie Green, Bootsie Barnes, and other veteran Philadelphia-based jazz artists. Over the years he has performed with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roscoe Mitchell, Dave Holland, Orrin Evans, Freddie Bryant, Tim Warfield, and Uri Caine. He performed with violinist Regina Carter for two years and toured the U.S., Europe, South America, and the Caribbean in support of her recording I’ll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey.

Harper’s projects as a leader include The Onus, the piano-clarinet duo Into Something, and the C3 Project, an octet that presents multi-media work that includes dance, video, and poetry. His groups are acclaimed for their “poise and maturity” and “the empathy Harper and cohorts have developed over… years of working together.” As a composer, Harper has published and recorded over two dozen works. He has written a film score for the award-winning documentary film Herskovits: At the Heart of Blackness. Harper has been recognized by critics for his “incisive arrangements” and “richly melodic and…refreshingly inventive” writing.

Harper has a doctorate in Jazz Studies from New England Conservatory, an M.M. in Jazz Studies from Rutgers University, and a B.A. in Music from Amherst College. He currently serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Music at Amherst.

Joe LaCreta

Jazz Guitar

In 1998 Joe received his M.M. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he studied with Dr. Yusef Lateef.

In 2006 Joe played and studied with John Abercrombie. A professional guitarist since 1986, Joe has played many styles of American Roots Music with many great musicians. Currently, Joe leads his own trio which usually consists of Guitar, Hammond Organ, and Drums. Joe also co-leads the group Oslo Rite which plays original compositions and Free Jazz.


Ann Maggs

Jazz Voice

Ann Maggs began singing and playing piano in smoky bars at age 14, joining the Musicians’ Union a year later.  She has performed with Don Was (president of Blue Note records), Freddie Bryant, Jim Argiro, Fred Karlin, Andy Jaffe, Jeff Holmes, and has sung with the big bands of Jeff Holmes, Sonny Costanza, Don Baptiste, and Everett Longstreth’s ‘Tribute to Benny Goodman’ Orchestra.  She has performed at the Plaza in New York City and First Night in Saratoga Springs, NY.  Ann sings regularly with the 18-piece Heritage Pops Orchestra.

  A graduate of the University of Massachusetts and the University of Rhode Island, Ann taught junior high school music in Holyoke, MA, and jazz voice at Westfield State University.  She is Music Library Specialist and Adjunct Voice Faculty at Amherst College.  She has been a clinician at Massachusetts All-State Conferences and an adjudicator for IAJE festivals of jazz choirs.  She is the narrator of several Emmy-nominated PBS documentaries and can be heard on the computer game ‘Majesty’.  Ann has been an actor, composer, and music director with the Hampshire Shakespeare Company of Amherst, MA.  Among her stage roles is Gertrude in ‘Hamlet’, Joy Gresham in ‘Shadowlands’, Ella in ‘Bells are Ringing’, and Mrs. Lovett in ‘Sweeney Todd’. Ann is an archivist and playwright, portraying Belle Skinner, Mabel Loomis Todd, and Shakespearean actress Helena Modjeska.

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David Picchi

Jazz Bass and Combo Coach

David Picchi has been performing and teaching music throughout the Pioneer Valley since 2001. As an electric and double bass player, he has been called to play on many recording projects and is known for his ability to perform with any lineup, in any genre, for any audience.

After graduating from Holyoke Community College and UMass Amherst, David spent 3 years touring nationally with the Soul/R&B band Leah Randazzo Group. In addition to being the Administrative Director for the UMass Jazz in July Summer Music Programs, David is a member of the Amherst College Music Department faculty, and also contributes his skills and services to the HCC Jazz Festival, Northampton Jazz Festival, Mt. Holyoke College Music Department, and Vermont Jazz Center.

David has performed, or can currently be seen performing with Karrin Allyson, Chocolate Peach, FlavaEvolution, Evelyn Harris, Chuck Langford, Yusef Lateef, Kevin Mahogany, Charles Neville, Dick Oatts, Arturo O'Farrill, Beau Sasser, Miro Sprague and many other wonderful musicians.

Jason Robinson

Assistant Professor of Jazz and Popular Music, Saxophone

American saxophonist and scholar Jason Robinson is fascinated by the relationship between improvised music, experimentalism, and cultural identity. His current performance interests include the intersection of improvisation and composition, new electro-acoustic processing and interaction enabled through software-based technologies, and the relationship between popular music and experimentalism. He performs regularly as a soloist (acoustically and with electronics), with groups he co-leads (Cosmologic and the Cross Border Trio), as a leader of varying ensembles performing his original music, and in a variety of collaborative contexts. His latest albums include his fourth release as a leader—Cerberus Rising (2009/Circumvention)—and the fourth release by Cosmologic, Eyes in the Back of My Head (2008/Cuneiform). He has performed at festivals and prominent venues in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. He has performed or recorded with Peter Kowald, George Lewis, Anthony Davis, Eugene Chadbourne, Earl Howard, Emily Hay, Jeff Kaiser, Toots and the Maytals, Groundation, Elijah Emanuel and the Revelations, Bertram Turetzky, Mark Dresser, John Russell, Roger Turner, Gerry Hemingway, Kei Akagi, Mel Graves, Liberty Ellman, Babatunde Olatunji, Mel Martin, Marco Eneidi, Lisle Ellis, Raphe Malik, Mike Wofford, Philip Gelb, J.D. Parran, Dana Reason, David Borgo, Nathan Hubbard, Michael Dessen, Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (at Pearl's, San Francisco), the La Jolla Symphony, SONOR (UCSD), and the San Francisco Mime Troupe, among others. Robinson has published articles and reviews in Ethnomusicology and Critical Studies in Improvisation/ Études critiques en improvisation. Robinson holds a Ph.D. in Music from the University of California, San Diego

Dave Sporny


After earning his bachelor and Master's degrees from the University of Illinois, he became the Low Brass Instructor at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. During his 16 years at Interlochen, he founded the Jazz Studies programs at the Academy and at the National Music Camp. He led the Dave Sporny Big Band and the Interlochen Jazz Quintet while being an active performer throughout the Midwest. Since coming to the University in 1982, he has been a frequent recitalist, clinician, and freelance trombonist in New England.

Being equally comfortable in both classical and jazz traditions, Mr. Sporny has appeared in concert halls throughout the world including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Tanglewood and Ravinia. Tours with various ensembles have taken him to South America, Europe, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Japan and Russia. He has performed with the Chicago Little Symphony, the Northwood Orchestra, Opera North, the Springfield and Hartford Orchestras, Ancora Chamber Ensemble, and the Corporate Brass. In 1997 he was chosen as principal trombone for the Festival Orchestra of Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Most recently, as a member of the Silk Road Ensemble, he performs with Yo Yo Ma. He has also performed with The Tonight Show Orchestra, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey Orchestras, Les Elgart, Joe Williams, Frank Sinatra Jr., Nancy Wilson, Maureen McGovern, Aretha Franklin, Andy Williams, Dave Brubeck, Marian McPartland, Max Roach, Billy Taylor, Slide Hampton, J.J. Johnson, to name a few.

Dave Sporny is the founder and musical director of the Amherst Jazz Orchestra. In 2004 the International Association for Jazz Education presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

David Sporny has recorded 12 albums and 17 CDs for RCA, Brownstone, Seabreeze, Jazz Masters and Original Cast Recordings. He is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Eugene Uman

Jazz Piano

Eugene is the Artistic Director at the Vermont Jazz Center where he produces concerts and oversees educational programming. He received an MA from Queens College in Jazz Performance where he was a recipient of a Eubie Blake Scholarship. Eugene has served as a fellow in composition at the MacDowell Colony and at the Marble House Project. He lived for 4 years in Medellín Colombia where he initiated and designed the curriculum for the Jazz Studies Program at La Universidad de EAFIT and taught at El Colegio de Música and La Universidad de Antioquia. Uman has also taught at the 3 rd Street Music Settlement House in NYC, Marlboro College, UMass Amherst, Greenfield Community College and the Governor’s Institute of Vermont, offering classes and workshops in piano, composition, theory and harmony, improvisation, pedagogy, and jazz history and appreciation.

Over the years, Eugene has performed with Donald Byrd, Howard Brofsky, Jerry Bergonzi, Sheila Jordan, Jay Clayton, Freddie Bryant, Stacy Dillard and many others. He has released three albums of original music, two with his group, The Convergence Project which features compositions influenced by the rhythms of Colombia. He has appeared on numerous recordings and three of his compositions were included on Sammy Figueroa’s Grammy-nominated album, In Walked Sammy. Eugene’s work has been commissioned by the Big Band de Medellin, the Windham Orchestra, and Juno Orchestra.