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Director

Steve Alford serves as the Director of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation Studies and Professor of Saxophone at University of Minnesota, Morris.

A multi-instrumentalist specializing in the performance and university education of contemporary music, Alford began his career as a saxophone graduate of the studio music and jazz program from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami in the mid 1990s. After multiple years on the road across the United States and Europe he settled in Chicago in the late 90's and began pursuing an in-depth study of harmony clarinets, appearing regularly on both saxophone and bass clarinet in the straight-ahead jazz, modern improvised music, and experimental indy-rock scenes across the midwest.

Relocating to Asheville, North Carolina after ten years in Illinois, Alford was recruited to teach modern jazz and improvised music at both Mars Hill University and the University of North Carolina-Asheville. While serving UNC-Asheville as an adjunct professor of jazz and contemporary music, he completed his Masters in Jazz at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, concurrently developing a new contemporary music pedagogy focusing on multi-lateral ear training, multi-instrumental rhythm section methods class, "mind's ear" sonic exploration, and melodic immersion. This personal system, a lauded and successful departure from the rote-memorization of patterns and theory often employed in traditional jazz education, made him a sought-after clinician and guest artist across the Southeast USA.

During the past decade, he has composed, produced and recorded his most adventurous music to date including his acclaimed 11 piece modern big band, the multi-genre improvisation-based collective known as Rational Discourse, the E.Normus Trio (an alto clarinet, N/S Stick, and drums trio within the punk-jazz genre), his quintet METAL (two trash can drum systems, two double bassists, and himself on electrified contra-alto clarinet and electrified english horn), and his new standards jazz trio and quartets, each re-imagining small group jazz through an open and free approach to harmony while remaining grounded in tradition.

Most recently, in the Fall of 2022, Alford was invited to become the new coordinator for Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation Studies at the University of Minnesota - Morris, and is excited to bring his curriculum of modern multi-genre improvisation study grounded in traditional jazz roots to the University of Minnesota system.

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