Overcoming Barriers in Jazz: Musician Residency with Tia Fuller

Apr 12, 2023

This grant, along with funding from Needham High School Friends of Music, funded a two-week musician residency in which Tia Fuller— Grammy-nominated Black female jazz saxophonist, composer, Berklee professor, and featured musician in Pixar’s Soul—shared her musical expertise and experiences with overcoming the glass ceiling often faced by Black and female-identifying musicians with Needham student musicians from High Rock, Pollard, and Needham High Schools. This residency coincided with the inception of a newly-established lab jazz program at Pollard that provides beginner jazz instruction to High Rock and Pollard students. Needham jazz students had the opportunity to prepare and rehearse Fuller’s original Grammy-nominated charts alongside her, which culminated in a combined performance in January encompassing all jazz programs in the district.

Grant writer Spencer Parrish, Needham High School Band Director and Music teacher, noted “Our time with Tia Fuller proved to be transformative for all involved. It is rare for professional musicians of Fuller’s caliber to be effective music clinicians in public school settings. Given this, Steve Heldt [Pollard Band Director] and I were pleasantly surprised to witness the efficacy of Fuller’s interactions with our students. Her feedback was differentiated for each respective age group, and the depth of her knowledge and experience as a professional jazz musician led to immediate (and lasting) improvements in the performance quality of our ensembles. Students walked away from the experience feeling pride for the tremendous musical accomplishment of performing and rehearsing alongside a Grammy-nominated musician. This residency seems to have provided them with inspiration to continue performing and learning about this special musical genre. These outcomes were everything I had hoped for when submitting the initial grant proposal.”