Tim Ray

Position
Professor
Faculty Bio E-Mail

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Tim Ray’s wide-ranging skills as a soloist and accompanist have afforded him the opportunity to perform with legendary performers from all walks of music. Ray served as music director and pianist for the legendary Tony Bennett from 2016 until the singer's retirement in 2021. Before that, he performed on the road with singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett, touring for more than 15 years. Appearing on over 100 recordings, Ray has performed in concert with an extensive list of pop-music icons, notably Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Jane Siberry, and Soul Asylum. He regularly performs with leading figures in the jazz world, among them Terri Lyne Carrington, Gary Burton, Esperanza Spalding, Kurt Elling, George Garzone, Dave Douglas, Lewis Nash ,and Brian Blade, and his classical credits include solo performances and concerts with the Boston Pops, Gunther Schuller, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. He has released six albums under his own name, including 2020's Excursions & Adventures featuring Terri Lyne Carrington and John Patitucci. Ray’s busy schedule has included frequent tours throughout North America, South America, Mexico, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and has included performances at Carnegie Hall, the White House, the Kennedy Center, and the 1992 Presidential Inauguration. He is a grant recipient from the National Endowment for the Arts and continues to be in high demand as a musical director, composer, arranger, private instructor, and clinician.

Career Highlights
  • Musical director and pianist for legendary vocalist Tony Bennett until 2021
  • Performances with Lyle Lovett, Terri Lyne Carrington, John Patitucci, Phil Woods, Gary Burton, Brian Blade, Dave Douglas, Esperanza Spalding, John Abercrombie, Lewis Nash, Scott Hamilton, Oliver Lake, Rufus Reid, Jane Siberry, Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin, Soul Asylum, Gunther Schuller, the Boston Pops, and many more
  • Released six albums as a leader: Excursions & Adventures, Windows, Ideas & Opinions, Tre Corda, Squeaky Toy, and On My Own Vol. 1
  • Featured as a sideman on more than 100 recordings
  • Coauthor of the book Jazz Berklee Standards for Solo Piano (Berklee Press/Hal Leonard)
  • Performances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, The Conan O’Brien Show, Austin City Limits, and various other national TV and radio broadcasts
  • Current recording artist for the Whaling City Sounds label
Awards
  • Recording grant from the National Endowment for the Arts
Education
  • M.M., New England Conservatory
  • B.M., Arizona State University
In Their Own Words

"I think my goal as a teacher is to find that special thing—whether it's an exercise, a concept, or just something for them to listen to—that kind of flips the switch. I think for me that's the biggest reward, getting to know students and then finding that one or two things to really advance them as players. That's the improvisational part of teaching, finding those tools that enable me to better communicate with students and then enable students to improve themselves."

"I consider myself a full-time performer. I think that's a lot of what informs my teaching, things I've learned either on the road or playing gigs locally. I've always been primarily a jazz pianist, and that's certainly what I enjoy doing the most. But I've also played with the singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett. I got connected to him through other musicians, and after subbing for a few years I ended up doing that full time. I was on the road all the time, and that was a great experience. I certainly learned a lot. I also got involved with some other singer-songwriters—Jane Siberry, Victoria Williams—and some rock groups."

"One of the things I try to communicate to my students is the idea that when you're in school, you try to absorb as much as you can in terms of music and styles and just open yourself up to as broad a spectrum as you can. Because you never know when an opportunity will come along that's going to take your career in a different direction. That's what happened to me. When I was in college, I thought, 'I'll just be a jazz piano player,' and then all these other things came up. The next thing I know, I'm doing all these great things, traveling all over the world, playing with all these incredible musicians, but not necessarily playing jazz all the time. So I try to open myself up to all these different opportunities."

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