Kelly Shepherd is a dedicated professional musician and teacher with over 25 years in music. He has performed and recorded with some of the very best names in jazz and he is an equally devoted teacher. As a child, Kelly was exposed to all styles of music and performance from his father who was a musician. Kelly started his formal musical studies at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Md at the age of 10. At age 13, Kelly auditioned for and was accepted into The Baltimore School for the Performing Arts. While studying classical saxophone with Dr. Chris Ford at BSA, he would frequently visit his father, a jazz singer, in New York City. In New York, he was around and learned from the best musicians in the world with whom his father was working. This way, Kelly was taught both formally and informally. He also entered the traditional rites of passage essential to jazz musicians. By spending time with and sitting in with older great musicians, the spirit of the music was passed on to Kelly. He started learning from and being mentored outside of school settings by jazz saxophone masters Junior Cook and Gary Bartz. During high school Kelly met a friend and teacher for life in Jamal Wilson. Mr. Wilson mentored and taught Kelly about many things. He introduced Kelly to a technique for tone production aimed at playing with a healing sound. "Although I didn't consciously know how to articulate it at the time, I was longing for this approach to music. I was really into John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix. Mr. Wilson taught me that being a good person could work for me and that it would be my path to success. He tied all of that into the technique of playing.. He taught me about many things and he helped me to put all that I was learning from other great music teachers, under one umbrella. He taught me that love, respect and compassion for all living beings was an essential part of living. Honestly, I couldn't have asked for more... A great classical teacher Dr. Chris Ford, two world renowned jazz saxophone masters Junior Cook and Gary Bartz, an incredible singer in my dad, and a master teacher in Mr. Wilson. All while I was in high school! I had the education that no amount of money could buy."
As a performer, Kelly realized his dreams and went on to share the stage with some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world. He performed and recorded with jazz luminaries such as Curtis Fuller, Cecil McBee, Richard Wyands, Leroy Williams, Virgil Jones, Grady Tate, Charles Davis and many more. Kelly performed at many major festivals in the U.S and abroad and has conducted many workshops and clinics at universities, colleges, grade schools, and arts & community centers.
In 2001, Kelly's son Justyn was born, and Kelly decided to devote more time to teaching so that he could watch Justyn grow. Having been taught and mentored by jazz saxophone legends Junior Cook, Gary Bartz, as well as his father, Kelly acquired a vast wealth of essential musical knowledge which can not be found in textbooks or university settings. Along with learning about the science of healing sound from Mr. Wilson, Mr. Wilson started sharing with Kelly how to communicate with and nurture students. It has become the foundation of his teaching philosophy. "I am an avid student and devoted teacher always wanting to develop and share all the important information I've been fortunate enough to receive. After my son Justyn was born, I immersed myself in teaching and found myself specializing in teaching professional and intermediate musicians the techniques for personal sound development. I realized that my younger students were able to play their own personal sound quite naturally right away and more easily than the professional adults. They were very advanced. I was quickly won over my younger students and I realized the importance of children having a very good first teacher. None of my peers wanted to teach beginners but I saw each young pupil as the teacher. I wished I could sound like them... I was so trained that they could do things I couldn't do.. They exemplified transparency of character reflected in purity of sound. They were happy and adults were trying to be happy.. It was a perfect fit. Together, my students, and my teacher's have helped shaped me, my teaching method."
"Based on a very personal approach tailored for every student, the cornerstones of my teaching method are, full acceptance of each student, positive encouragement, patience, listening, nurturing, being instinctive and most importantly, having fun. One important factor in every lesson is each student getting a chance to hear themselves sounding good immediately. Why bombard a young student with technical exercises that don't make any music when the whole point is to make music and have fun "playing music". Kids sign up for music to have fun.. I want students to enjoy the lessons. They should feel that you genuinely care about their well being and personal growth. Above all I want them to feel good about themselves and to lead really happy lives. That's way more important to me than molding them into a concert pianist. My students who enter into competitions get my full support and they often win top awards and honors but I attribute that to not forcing them and my belief in following their joy for music and the lessons. I want each student to look forward to and enjoy each lesson, knowing that they will feel better about themselves after our time together. That being said, we want to make some good music in every lesson. Parents and family members often enjoy the music as well."
Today, Kelly still performs in several groups (mostly his own group Kelly Shepherd and NoMad Stories). He organizes several recitals for his students annually. He also does workshops with professionals for students as well as doing workshops with his students for other students. He leads several youth ensembles. Kelly has recorded several of his own recordings as well as having recorded on other musicians CDs. Kelly resides in Littleton, MA with his family.
Two legendary teachers who both taught me, Jamal & Odell Wilson
One of my favorite saxophone players and my teacher, saxophone legend Junior Cook
One of the best saxophonists alive, legendary alto saxophonist and my teacher Gary Bartz