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Local Music Makers: Spotlight on Musician and Mentor, Jason DeCristofaro

Jason wears numerous hats and each one fits him perfectly

As a music educator, multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and community event organizer, his growth as a human being is in part, steeped in and around the students, faculty and staff at Warren Wilson College where he teaches music.

“Teaching music at WWC is a privilege and a dream come-true. Their commitment to experimental learning, environmental and social justice through academics, service and work creates this wonderfully unique culture I have not seen in other institutions of higher learning.”

WNC has been Mr. DeCristofaro’s home for nearly two decades.

“Music, the arts and humanities in general provide an avenue towards gaining a more open and empathetic understanding of the world in which we live. It is an enormous privilege to be able to work with driven students who recognize their learning not just in the context of their academic studies, but as part of a lifelong journey towards becoming a well-rounded person and caring citizen of the world.”

It seems every reader wants to know the pivotal moments when musicians realize they want to study music, perform or both. When was that for you?

I can’t identify a specific moment. However, I realized that music was an enormous part of my life and something I had to do when I was in high school. To this day, I can’t fully explain my drive to create, perform, and study.

You have often been praised for your mentoring skills, be it toward younger musicians or older adults checking off ‘learning an instrument’ and/or performing from their bucket list. How did your penchant for championing musicians begin?

I have been fortunate in my journey to know incredible people - mentors, educators, musicians who inspire and support me in a variety of ways including family, friends, and listeners. I am successful doing what I love because of this support and I hope I show the same kind of support to others who have musical goals.

Tell me about your significant mentor(s).

There are too many to list! Foremost are my parents and my brother. Having a network of a family that loves you and is always ready to help you succeed is an amazing blessing. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if it weren’t for their love and support.

I’ve been fortunate to have mentors as a performing artist throughout my formal education outside of school. It’s worth mentioning that mentorship can continue throughout life. Dr. Lenora Helm Hammonds, who is the chair of Jazz Studies at North Carolina Central University, is a prolific jazz artist, composer/arranger and educator and I have learned and continue to learn a great deal from her.

My partner Dani Cox is one of the hardest working musicians I know; her commitment to artistic excellence and honesty in her work as a songwriter and musician inspires me every day.

Talk about the instruments you are most fluent on & why you were drawn to study/learn to play them.

I always say that I am a lifelong student of the instruments I play. I think I am best known as a vibraphonist, but I have put just as many hours of work into drums, percussion, and piano. In fact, I would say I’ve put more hours into piano than any other instrument and I’ve been playing piano longer than anything else.

What is it about performing that keeps you inspired to pursue opportunities to do so?

This is a very simple answer but, I honestly love it! I have thought many times about why this might be but I never have a clear answer. Perhaps it is the joy of sharing what I love with others? Maybe it is the opportunity to create music in real time with fellow musicians? Again, I’m not entirely sure, but I will say that performing music is something that drives me and makes me feel alive.

I am not alone in my awe of Jason DeCristofaro. I admire his energy, tenacity and the knack he has for creating equal opportunities. He takes the time to create outlets for musicians and sees it through with passion and thoughtfulness.

The guy is never without a smile on his face and he greets novice musicians and musician-singers with the same enthusiasm and confidence as the professionals he encounters and shares stages with. For a person with as much knowledge, experience, prowess and finesse on all the instruments he plays as Jason, this is saying something big indeed. He is a humble gentleman who is always willing to help.

For more than ten years, he’s hosted Hendersonville’s weekly Jazz Night at Southern Appalachian Brewery. And while the format continues to evolve, it’s a place where listeners and musicians can gather regularly around 6pm to join in or hear a variety of local and regional jazz artists that DeCristofaro spotlights and plays each week.

If you go and want to sit, plan to go early because it is often standing room only. If you want to sit in, make sure to visit the Facebook page he’s created first, to get the low-down. Search: Jazz Night at Southern Appalachian Brewery.

Each Sunday for the past many years, he’s been hosting a Jazz Jam and showcase at One World West starting at 1pm. The first set each week, spotlights a special guest artist and the rest of the afternoon opens up to players and vocalists; impromptu, extemporaneous jazz in all its forms.

Recently he’s been added to the lineup of players at The JLloyd Mashup also at One World West, hosted by trombonist Jonathan Lloyd. Each and every Monday night Jason plays congas/percussion for this extremely popular weekly dance band and funk fest. Another successful weekly happening you’ll want to get to early in order to get a seat.

Municipal Surf Group is an original instrumental trio where he sits behind a full drum kit to provide all the groovy rhythm that makes up surf music.

Check out their schedule: or their music profile page here:

Are there other music projects/showcases that you are hosting that I forgot or that are in the works?

An original music showcase is happening every Friday at the Cedar Canteen in Cedar Mountain, North Carolina from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

To keep up with everything Jason visit his Reverbnation profile page here:

To learn about his copious awards and accolades, visit his website here:

And there’s always his music Facebook page here:

And his Instagram here:

And to watch him in action, visit his YouTube page here:

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach,
song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at


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