(Back to ‘Letter to Pastors 4/22/11)
Jeff Haas Bio
Pianist/composer Jeff Haas, the son of German Jewish immigrants, grew up in Detroit in a home rich with music in the Judaic and classical traditions. His father was a temple organist for a large reform congregation and young Jeff developed a passion for Judaic music at a very early age, spending countless hours sitting beside his dad on the sanctuary organ bench.
Jeff began classical piano studies with his father at the age of five. He spent his early teen years studying piano, theory and composition at the famed Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin and, returning to the states, he attended the Motor City's renowned Cass Technical High School. In the midst of his classical studies, Jeff discovered his sister's copy of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane: Live at the Five Spot and his passion for jazz was born. He went on to study theory and composition at the university level but it would be nearly two decades before the aspiring musician and composer would develop a very personal and engaging musical voice that combined his love for jazz, blues, Judaic and classical music. Jeff’s music carries a timely message of understanding, acceptance and peace. It is this message that Jeff began to take into the public schools in 1991 using his original music to capture the student’s attention and promote interactive discussion about overcoming barriers and building bridges between people of different races, cultures and backgrounds.
In 1996, Haas' unique blend of African-American, Jewish and European musical traditions received national attention with the release of L'Dor VaDor - Generation to Generation, voted top ten jazz album of the year by the Albuquerque Journal. The Pittsburgh Tribune called it, "A marvelous blend of [Hebrew] folk music and jazz. Four stars!" Genre Magazine wrote, "The richness of Hebrew folk music refreshingly sifted through a hip jazz sensibility for a totally swinging kaleidoscope of magical musical moments." The Dallas Morning News described Jeff's music as "swinging Hebrew folk jazz and you don't have to be Jewish to dig it!"
Jeff's music also came to the attention of legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck who said, "In combining these great musical traditions, [Haas] has created a soulful music that transcends ethnic barriers. I congratulate him and his colleagues for their fine playing!"
In 1998, Jeff received a commission to write an original jazz suite commemorating the sesquicentennial celebration of metro Detroit's Jewish community. The critically acclaimed composition, The Bridge Lives, portrays a significant and timely social message about building bridges between cultures, generations and identities. The Detroit Free Press called The Bridge Lives, "extending backward to his familial and religious roots and extended forward to his burgeoning career as a jazz musician. Haas’ blend of Jewish music and jazz offers a path lit with originality." Iconoclast jazz master Ahmad Jamal praised Jeff for "the depth of his compositional effort and the inspired use of the universal language of music."
In 2000, Jeff composed Motown Mosaic, a jazz suite premiered for SRO crowds for the 300th anniversary celebration of the City of Detroit.
In 2002, Jeff completed an extended composition, the MLK Suite: Then & Now, commissioned by the City of Traverse City’s Human Rights Commission for the 2003 Martin Luther King Day Celebration. This commission resulted in the development of Haas’ Teen Music Mentoring Program wherein high school student musicians participate in supervised ensembles that reinforce improved self-confidence, self-discipline and self-esteem.
In late 2002, Jeff received a Creative Artist Commission from ArtServe Michigan to compose a double quartet - The Age of Confluence - written for jazz and string quartet. This engaging and diverse composition has been very well received by both jazz and classical audiences of all ages.
In 2004, Jeff was one of 14 composers selected nationwide to receive a New Works: Creation and Presentation Fellowship from Chamber Music America to create new original music for Haas’ Quintet featuring Legendary jazzman Marcus Belgrave and multi-instrumentalist Rob Smith. Jeff’s book of original music now contains over 110 compositions.
Since the inception of the Diversity Workshop Program in 1991, now called Building Bridges with Music, Jeff has conducted over 500 diversity workshops in K-12 public schools as well as the university level using his original music as a springboard for interactive discussion about overcoming barriers and creating more awareness and understanding about people from different cultures and backgrounds. In 2008, the Building Bridges with Music Program entered into a long-term collaboration with the Utopia Foundation in order to develop support to facilitate broader distribution of these programs.
In 2004, Jeff was also awarded the Sara Hardy Humanitarian of the Year Award for promoting humanism through the arts.
In 2006, Jeff was the recipient of the National Maas Foundation Award for promoting Jewish culture and humanism through he arts.