Jason Yeager

Position
Assistant Professor
Affiliated Departments
Telephone
617-747-6347

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What do Kurt Vonnegut, Thelonious Monk, Latin American folk music, and the socio-political issues of our time have in common? They all find their way into the music and mind of Berklee professor and award-winning pianist and composer Jason Yeager. An adroit and sensitive accompanist as well as an imaginative bandleader, Yeager has released seven albums of original music, including Unstuck in Time: the Kurt Vonnegut Suite (Sunnyside Records), with his eponymous septet and special guest Miguel Zenón; and Hand in Hand (Club 44 Records), with his spouse and Broadway singer/actress Julie Benko. Yeager's forthcoming album with String Department faculty member Jason Anick, Sanctuary, was supported by a Berklee Faculty Development Grant, and will be released in 2024. Yeager is the 2022 winner of the Jazz WaHi Jazz Composition Competition, a second-place winner of the Ravenscroft Jazz Piano Competition, and a two-time finalist of the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition.

The New York-based pianist has performed across five continents, at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Birdland, the Blue Note, Smalls, Panama Jazz Festival, and more. He has performed and recorded with such noteworthy artists as Luciana Souza, Miguel Zenón, Farayi Malek, Ran Blake, Jason Palmer, Ayn Inserto, Sean Jones, Randal Despommier, and Noah Preminger, among others. A committed teacher, Yeager is an associate professor of piano at Berklee College of Music. He is an honors graduate of the Tufts University/New England Conservatory Double Degree Program, and earned a Master of Music summa cum laude from the Berklee Global Jazz Institute.

Career Highlights
  • Selected recordings as a leader include Unstuck in Time: the Kurt Vonnegut Suite (Sunnyside, 2022), Hand in Hand (Club44 Records, 2022), New Songs of Resistance (Outside in Music, 2019), All at Onceness (Red Piano Records, 2018) with Randal Despommier, United (Inner Circle Music, 2017) with Jason Anick
  • Music director and arranger/pianist for Broadway performer Julie Benko
  • Performed on more than 25 additional recordings as a side musician
  • Made Carnegie Hall solo piano recital debut in April 2019
  • Leader of the Jason Yeager Trio & Septet
  • Co-leader of the Jason Anick/Jason Yeager Quintet
  • Performances with Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra, Miguel Zenón, Julie Benko, Luciana Souza, Sean Jones, Farayi Malek, Noah Preminger, and Mark Walker, among others
  • Performances as a leader and sideman at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Birdland, Smalls Jazz Club, and Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, the Regattabar, Ryles, and Jordan Hall in Boston, and abroad in Argentina, South Africa, Bostwana, China, and Panama, among others
  • Private studies with Fred Hersch, Danilo Pérez, Sophia Rosoff, John Kamitsuka, and Jerry Bergonzi, among others
Awards
  • Winner of 2022 Jazz WaHi Jazz Composition Competition
  • Winner of Berklee Faculty Recording Grants (2015, 2022)
  • Second Place Winner, Ravenscroft Jazz Piano Competition (2022)
  • Two-time Finalist, Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition (2019, 2022)
  • Finalist, International Songwriting Competition (2017)
  • DownBeat magazine 4.5-star review and a Best Album of 2017 for United (Inner Circle Music)
Education
  • M.M., Berklee Global Jazz Institute, contemporary performance, summa cum laude
  • B.M., New England Conservatory, jazz performance with academic honors
  • B.A., Tufts University, international relations, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
In Their Own Words

"My approach to teaching is both flexible and disciplined. I like to find out what students are into musically, what their backgrounds are, and what they would like to achieve. It’s important to master fundamentals like good rhythm, groove, strong ears, and a good understanding of harmony, melody, and form regardless of style or genre. But I want to connect these skills with each student’s individual interests and inclinations."

"I give my students very specific things to work on, exercises and methods to help them develop certain skills. But these almost always involve improvisation and creativity. It’s not just rote playing or memorization of patterns. I want to maintain that sense of creative discovery and the process of finding one’s own voice—as a player, improviser, and composer. The main question I want to help my students explore is, 'How do you take these tools and use them to express your feelings, your thoughts, and your place in the world in a musical way?'"

"The best teachers I had opened my ears and my mind to new possibilities, and I want to do this for my students. I want them to feel inspired and excited about practicing. Not that it’s a chore, but that it is part of furthering their creative goals. If I can do that, they will be much more excited to practice, and the lessons will be more relevant."

"It is important for students to really listen to their sound. It’s easy to think, 'I just press a note, and if it is a good piano, it will sound good.' But it’s much more than that. I coach students on their physical approach—the posture and positioning of their hands, arms, legs, where they sit, and so on. I want students to develop a good, personal sound on the piano, staying true to their musical personalities, while avoiding injury and strain."

"I am primarily a jazz pianist, but I’ve studied and continue to play classical music, and I’ve played in rock groups. I don’t feel the need to segregate genres. The Piano Department is incredibly varied, with working professionals from all fields of music. I’m really excited by that, and I hope my students are, too."