Saxophonist and composer, Sharel Cassity (pronounced “Shah-Relle”), graduated in 2007 with a M.A. in Jazz Performance from the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City on a full scholarship, and received her B.F.A from The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music in 2005. Born in Iowa City, Sharel moved frequently throughout her childhood eventually settling in Yukon, OK, where she graduated high school and briefly attended University of Central Oklahoma. In 2000 she moved to New York City and lived there for 16 years, earning her degrees and thriving on the NYC jazz scene before relocating to Chicago in 2017. Sharel has shared the stage with Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, DeeDee Bridgewater, Natalie Cole, Johnny Mandel, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Gregory Porter, James Moody, Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Slide Hampton, Nicholas Payton, Jimmy Heath, Maceo Parker, Terrence Blanchard and other jazz greats. She has also performed with mainstream artists Aretha Franklin, Vanessa Williams, K.D. Lang, Fantasia, Trisha Yearwood, Seth MacFarland (Family Guy), Ruben Blades, DJ Logic and Natalie Merchant. Sharel leads her own Quintet that has performed at the DC Jazz Festival (2016), Winter Jazzfest NYC (2016, 2014, 2012), Blue Note Jazz Festival (2016), Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival (2015), Monty Alexander Jazz Festival (2013), Mid Atlantic Jazz Festival (2013), Jazz and Colors Festival (2013), Lake George Jazz Festival (2013), The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, The Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, Dallas Museum of Art, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, Blue Note Jazz Club, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Birdland, Smalls Jazz Club, toured Mexico and more. Sharel is member of the Dizzy Gillespie Afro Cuban Experience, the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars, the Jimmy Heath Big Band, Nicholas Payton TSO, Revive Big Band Gregorio Uribe Big Band and the Cyrus Chestnut Brubeck Quartet with whom she has toured the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East and Australia. She has also has appeared with the GRAMMY nominated bands Darcy James Argue Secret Society Big Band, the Roy Hargrove Big Band and Rufus Reid’s Quiet Pride, performing throughout Europe, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, Central Park Summerstage and the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival. A guest soloist with renowned Top 40 hit singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant on her latest music and DVD release “Paradise is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings” (2015), Sharel also performed with her on the Today Show (2015). Sharel can also be heard on NBC’s Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular soundtrack with the Diva Jazz Orchestra (2014), appeared in an ESPN Suberbowl commercial in 2013 and in 2006 appeared in the PBS Television Broadcast “Juilliard Centennial Celebration”. A skilled woodwindist, Sharel has performed in the Broadway musical After Midnight as well as Maurice Hines’ Off-Broadway production Tappin’ Through Life.
Sharel has been listed among DownBeat Magazine’s Critics Poll for Rising Star Alto Saxophone for 7 consecutive years (2010-2016) and has been featured in 3 jazz publications, “I Walked with Giants” by Jimmy Heath, “AM Jazz: Three Generations under the Lens” by Adrianna Mateo and “Freedom of Expression: Interviews with Women in Jazz” by Chris Becker. Her recording debut as a leader, Just for You, (DW 2008) established her throughout North America. Her second release, Relentless (Jazz Legacy Production, 2009) further demonstrated her virtuosity on alto and soprano saxophone, showcasing her fiery and soulful compositions with a stellar NYC band. Promoted to U.S. and Canadian press and radio, the CD received top rated reviews in JazzTimes, Jazziz and Downbeat, was played on over 100 radio stations and was on the Jazzweek charts for 32 consecutive weeks. Sharel’s third album as a leader, Manhattan Romance (Venus Japan 2014), is an album that features jazz luminaries Cyrus Chestnut, Rufus Reid and Lewis Nash that was also released on vinyl. Sharel’s most recent project, Elektra, is a contemporary, mix-genre project which will release its debut album in 2017.
In 2005, Sharel was one of 26 students selected to attend the Juilliard Jazz Program, and in 2006 was awarded the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award which led to her leading her group at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room. In the same year she was selected for IAJE’s Sisters in Jazz which toured Costa Rica, Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and received Downbeat Student Music Awards in both the Composition and Ensemble Performance categories. In 2008 she was hand picked for the elite Ravinia at Steans Institute in Chicago headed by David Baker, Curtis Fuller, Rufus Reid, James Moody and Nathan Davis. In 2011 Sharel received the honor of being inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and performed duo with her father at the acceptance ceremony. Sharel has been a Vandoren Performing Artist as well as joining the RS Berkeley Virtuoso Saxophone and AMT Microphone artist rosters since 2010.
In addition to performing, Cassity currently holds the position of Woodwind Professor at Qatar Music Academy in Doha, Qatar. Students from her private studio have won scholarships to the Hartt School of Music and placement in Jazz for Teens, Jazz House Kids and the Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra. She has taught internationally in Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico, China and Qatar and has given numerous clinics about the saxophone, jazz language, rhythm, harmony and music business.
A graduate of Yukon High School near Oklahoma City, where her family settled at the age of 12, Sharel played saxophone, flute, clarinet, piccolo, piano and marimba in the school’s jazz, marching and symphonic bands, was the recipient of the John Philip Sousa Award, the Tri-State Outstanding Soloist Award and earned a spot in the All State Jazz and Concert bands for 3 consecutive years. Afterwards she attended the University of Central Oklahoma Jazz program for 2 years before relocating to New York. Sharel began playing piano at age 6 and received her first saxophone at the age of 9.
“She plays alto and soprano with a seriously soulful tone that’s impressive enough to stop a roomful of seasoned jazz fans in their tracks.” -Ken Micallef, Downbeat Magazine
"Sharel Cassity has the potential to be one of the leaders of this genre's next generation" -J. Hunter, All About Jazz
"Sharel Cassity is another no-nonsense lady of the horn...her solos have an insurgent quality...and her deep blue alto wanes with melancholy" -Eric Fine, Downbeat Magazine
Sharel is a Vandoren PerformingArtist and plays the following saxophone equipment:
Alto: Vandoren V16 s8 mouthpiece, Java Red #3 reed, M/O ligature
Soprano: Vandoren V16 s6 mouthpiece, Java Red #3 reed, M/O ligature
Tenor: Vandoren V16 T7 mouthpiece, V16 #4 reed, M/O ligature
Sharel is a R.S. Berkeley Performing Artist and plays the R.S. Berkeley Virtuoso Tenor saxophone in regular lacquer. the Virtuoso Alto in gold lacquer, the Volaré C flute and the Aritst Series alto flute.
Sharel plays AMT wireless microphones.