Saxophonist and composer, Sharel Cassity (pronounced “Sha-Relle”), graduated from the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City with a Masters in Jazz Performance in on a full scholarship in 2007, and received her B.F.A from The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music in 2005. Sharel moved frequently throughout her childhood eventually settling in Yukon, Oklahoma where she graduated high school. 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, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Gregory Porter, James Moody, Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Slide Hampton, Nicholas Payton, 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 projects ELEKTRA and the Sharel Cassity Quartet that have performed at renowned venues like 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 (2017, 2015, 2014, 2012), The Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian (2010), Dallas Museum of Art (2010), Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, the Blue Note Jazz Club, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Birdland, Smalls Jazz Club and more. She also took her quintet on a 5 city tour of Mexico in 2016.
Sharel is member of the Dizzy Gillespie Afro Cuban Experience, 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. Sharel recorded with Top 40 hit singer-songwriter of 10,000 Maniacs Natalie Merchant on her latest music and DVD release “Paradise is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings” (2015) and 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 in DownBeat Magazine’s Critics Poll as Rising Star Alto Saxophone for 9 consecutive years (2010-2017) and has been featured in 3 jazz book publications, “I Walked with Giants” byJimmy Heath, “AM Jazz: Three Generations under the Lens” by Adrianna Mateo and “Freedom of Expression: Interviews with Women in Jazz” by Chris Becker.
Sharel has 4 albums out as a leader; Just for You, (DW 2008), Relentless (Jazz Legacy Production, 2009), Manhattan Romance (Venus Japan, 2013) & Evolve (Relsha Music 2018). Her first release established her throughout North America as an emerging artist. Sharel's second release 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, Evolve, is with her band ELEKTRA and is a jazz mix-genre project with a cast of top NYC musicians.
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 is proud to be a Vandoren Performing Artist, RS Berkeley Virtuoso Saxophone Artist and AMT Microphone Artist.
In addition to performing, Sharel has always been passionate about teaching and inspiring future generations of musicians. Cassity currently is a Professor of Saxophone and Piano at Elgin Community College in Elgin, IL. Between 2016-17 Sharel served abroad as the 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.
As a young girl Sharel started her musical journey at the age of 6 on the piano. Quickly winning state level competitions by age 8, she went on to compete and win numerous awards on a national level, eventually placing in the Disney International Piano Concerto Competition at age 11. As a classical pianist Sharel has performed works by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Gershwin and more.
Receiving her first saxophone at the age of 9, Sharel played saxophone in the high school jazz band as a 5th grader in Watson town, PA. While attending Yukon High School Sharel added flute, clarinet, piccolo and marimba to her arsenal and performed in the school’s jazz, marching and symphonic bands. While in High School she was the recipient of the John Philip Sousa Award, the Tri-State Outstanding Soloist Award and earned a position 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.