Jason DeCristofaro: Immersed in Music

Western North Carolina is ripe with creative talent. For a pleasant diversion (or to supplement their income), many residents play music. A much smaller number are completely immersed in the world of music, drawing artistic fulfillment and their livelihood through a life in music. Jason DeCristofaro is just such an individual. His work includes piano and percussion instruments, and he’s involved in a myriad of musical endeavors.

You’ve been teaching at Warren Wilson College since 2016. What do you teach there?
When I came on board, I was an adjunct, teaching jazz ensemble and applied piano. Since then, the music department has grown exponentially; now I also teach a new course, applied percussion. When I started, the college only offered a minor degree in music. About three years ago, we began to offer a music major; now we have 10 to 15 students working on a music major. I have about 24 applied students – with a half-hour lesson for each – every week of the semester. And in May of 2020 I received a promotion from adjunct to instructor.

I’m very active at Warren Wilson in service, too. I love the school; I want to see it grow, and I want to see the music department develop. Teaching there is a dream come true, a blessing and a privilege.

But you’re also adjunct faculty at ABTech, right?
Yes! I’ve been there since fall 2015: almost seven years.

And you perform in the evenings. Tell me about that.
There are two weekly jazz events. I’m the host/coordinator for the one at at Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville. When the pandemic started, we stopped doing that jazz night; instead we did virtual shows where the musicians would individually record their parts. We’d work out arrangements ahead of time for three to five songs each week. It was a lot of work: for 15-20 minutes of music, it could take us as much as 48 hours to produce.

When the restrictions were eased for venues, fortunately, jazz night returned at SAB, because they have a big outdoor space. We’re able to have live music safely, in an outdoor setting. And now we’re back to Wednesdays, 5:30 to 7:30.

The other weekly jazz thing I do is in a late-night jam every Monday night in at One World Brewing in West Asheville. Guitarist Ray Ring is the coordinator and musical director for that, and I’m part of the house trio. I play drums, piano or vibes.

Do you schedule private lessons as well?
Yes. I teach private students, and a play freelance gigs as a percussionist, pianist and drummer.

Wow. That covers weekdays and nights. What do you do on Sundays?
In March I started as pianist at Hope United Methodist Church in Hendersonville.

If there were more hours in a day, what would you do with the extra time?
I like to compose and arrange chamber works. The last thing I published was a piece for solo glockenspiel. So if I had more time, I’d compose even more.