November 27, 1960 in Windom, Minnesota
Maria Schneider attended the University of Minnesota, studying music theory and composition and graduating with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1983. She then attended the Eastman School of Music, studying with Rayburn Wright and earning a Master of Music degree in jazz writing and contemporary media in 1985. Following her formal studies, Schneider studied privately with Bob Brookmeyer, and spent three years as assistant to jazz composing giant Gil Evans.
Schneider formed a jazz ensemble with trombonist/composer Jon Fedchock (now leader of The New York Big Band) in 1989, an offshoot of which became the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra in 1993, performing weekly at Visiones in New York’s West Village. Schneider released her first album as a leader, Evanescence (ENJA) in 1994.
Schneider’s ensemble writing shows a distinctive, symphonic approach to jazz composition. She makes extensive use of bucket mutes in the brass, and woodwind doubles (flutes and clarinets), which lend a warm, soft color to her ensemble. As with many past students of Bob Brookmeyer (Ed Partyka, Jon Hollenbeck and Darcy James Argue, to name a few), Schneider is able to compose long, through-composed forms using relatively simple thematic material.
Like such jazz luminaries as Duke Ellington, Maria Schneider is known for her ability to write to her musicians’ strengths. Tenor Saxophonist Rich Perry, relatively unknown outside New York before joining Schneider’s band, has received international attention for his extended solos over Schneider’s harmonic landscapes. Her rhythm section, made up most recently of Frank Kimbrough (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and Clarence Penn (drums), has developed a precision and understated color unique to large jazz ensembles.
Schneider’s decision to release Concert in the Garden (Artistshare 2004) exclusively online was a milestone. The album became the first internet-only release to earn a Grammy award (Best Large Jazz Ensemble Recording 2004).
Schneider’s last album, Sky Blue (Artistshare 2007) was also released online, and features her Grammy-winning composition “Cerulean Skies” (Best Instrumental Composition 2007).
The Maria Schneider Orchestra currently tours internationally, and Schneider has appeared as a guest artist/clinician at universities throughout the United States.