Clark Jazz Band Welcomes New Director Jerry Sabatini

A Trumpet Call for Change


Monica Sager, Scarlet Staff

Clark University’s Jazz Workshop is gaining an important new member—and it’s not a freshman.

Jerry Sabatini, trumpeter and composer of Sonic Explorers, has become the director of Clark’s jazz band, replacing Eric Hofbauer.  

“I feel like I was on this planet to do music,” Sabatini said. “This whole musical adventure, the people I meet, the diversity of it, feels so satisfying for me.”

John Aylward, artistic director of the music program, sees Sabatini’s trumpet playing as bringing a focus on “traditional rep,” fixating on a “concentrated sound” and “group tone,” to the jazz band.

“I’m really excited he’s working with us,” Aylward said. “We want students to feel at home in the ensemble, and he just lifts a certain kind of energy that makes them feel comfortable.”

Sabatini seems to agree with Aylward’s attitude, adding, “I’m always amazed at all artists, all performers…it takes a great amount of bravery just to throw yourself out [there] and to be heard and to play in a way that could be so easily criticized…In all situations it’s a safe zone…we’re all here to push each other.”

Sabatini said this year’s band of about 20 musicians includes “several vocalists,” whom he’d like to feature, but he adds that each musician’s level of talent is “always changing” through practice and how much he can push them.

Currently there is only one trumpet player in jazz band, but Sabatini may share his talents and play along.  

Sabatini picked up a trumpet for the first time the summer after third grade at an “instrument petting zoo,” as he called it. He lifted the trumpet, tested it out, and knew it was for him. But even before that, he recognized he was destined for music.

“From the earliest moments of me listening to music and asking my parents, ‘Who are the people who do this?’” Sabatini said. “I said, ‘I’m going to do this for a living.’”

Sabatini said he is in many bands, but his primary is Sonic Explorers, which he formed in 1995 with some friends in Worcester.

“Most of my breakout career was in Worcester,” Sabatini said.

Sabatini and his bandmates started writing music, including many genres and influences from around the world. They have recorded five CDs.

Looking further toward future plans for the jazz band, Sabatini is hoping to take Clark’s band on tour, with an ear to hearing other musical genres.

“When I came here, what I kept saying over and over again in my head…is that I want to take the band to Cuba,” Sabatini said. “It’s a very rich culture in music. There’s so much crossover in Afro-Cuban music and jazz music…It would just be so culturally enriching for us to see what’s going on.”

Overall, the jazz band seems to be receiving Sabatini well, according to its president Jimmy Palmerino ’20, who plays saxophone. So far, the band has been testing out music.

Palmerino does say, though, there was some hesitancy from the band at Hofbauer leaving.

“I think [Jerry’s] good, definitely very similar to Eric,” said Palmerino. “I thought it would be a lot tougher without Eric…but it really hasn’t been too bad so far. I’ve been enjoying it.”

Aylward encourages the “cycle” of changing directors at Clark.

“I view the position here for our band directors—all four of those ensemble positions (Chamber Music, Concert Choir, Jazz Workshop, and Concert Band)—as a position that we really want to create strong people that go out and do great things after they’ve worked here,” Aylward said. “I want them to succeed after being with us for a while.”

Jazz Workshop will have its Fall Concert December 8 in Razzo Hall.