New York-based pianist and composer Jon Snell has been surrounded by music from an early age.
Beginning formal lessons before turning five, he was informally introduced to improvisation and composition shortly thereafter when his mom—an arts appreciator, but not a musician—would play his early lesson assignments and create, by ear, simple variations over them. By his teenage years, Snell was actively working in the local Iowa music scene.
Snell expanded his musical training at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). A 2014 magna cum laude graduate of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences, he toured internationally with the school’s top jazz band in Thailand. While in school, he had opportunities to perform with notable guest artists including Kenny Wheeler, Donny McCaslin, John Clayton, David Berkman, Peter Apfelbaum, Nachito Herrera, and Dick Oatts. Snell trained equally in the study of jazz and classical music, and his primary mentors were Bob Washut, Sean Botkin, and Chris Merz. Upon graduation, Snell received the Purple and Old Gold Award for Conspicuous Achievement in Music.
Snell moved to New York City in 2015 and attended the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) where he completed a masters degree in jazz performance and received the William H. Borden Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Jazz. Snell was a member of the MSM Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Justin DiCioccio and Jim McNeely, and his main instructors during this time included Garry Dial, Lisa Yui, Jim McNeely, Dave Liebman, Phil Markowitz, Chris Rosenberg, and Dave Lalama.
While still attending MSM, Snell performed with a variety of groups at several prominent venues around the city, including Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Knickerbocker Bar and Grill, the Kitano, and Cornelia Street Cafe. He continues to lead his own groups—duo, trio, and quintets—and has collaborated on a diverse range of projects—jazz, classical, and pop—with both up-and-coming as well as established artists.
In addition to a collection of more than 75 original works for small ensembles, Snell composes for studio orchestra and big band. He is a past recipient of ASCAP’s Young Jazz Composer’s Award and is a sought-after composer for ensembles of all sizes. Since 2011, Snell has been featured as a pianist and/or composer on over ten recordings.
Snell has also established himself as a sought-after educator, both as a recently-hired jazz piano faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music Precollege, in addition to his in-demand online studio for private instruction, Jazz Lessons NYC. He has been a guest speaker at the University of New Mexico and has served on the faculty for jazz camps at Kirkwood Community College and the University of Northern Iowa. He is also a teaching artist for Manhattan School of Music’s Distance Learning Program.