Eclectic, yes, that is what one would describe the musical journey that Barbara Cifelli has traveled. Beginning piano studies at age 5 and saxophone at age 10, Barbara realized after spending four hours a day in a summer camp practice hut, that she would focus her energies on the saxophone. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Barbara had the good fortune to work with Richard Davis as well as had numerous opportunities to perform “new” (contemporary) music, work in a local big band with seasoned professionals, and perform a concerto with the orchestra.
Upon finishing her undergraduate studies, Barbara moved to the big apple to further her studies through experience and private study. Teachers have included: saxophone: Steve Wilson, Ramon Ricker, Joe Allard, clarinet: Bill Blount, Al Regni, Larry Guy, and flute: Harvey Estrin, Keith Underwood, and Bart Feller. Early on she scored a chair in the saxophone section of the Lynn Oliver Band whose weekly gig was aired on the Danny Stiles radio show. Always excited to travel, Barbara’s salsa and merengue gigs took her to Puerto Rico and Equador. Eager to put her “doubling” chops to work, she did several tours including: Mame (with Patrice Munsel) and Sugar Babies (with Pinky Lee) giving her a chance to view 48 of the 50 states out of her bus window.
She was a member of Joe Gallant and Illuminati for 7 years in which the band enjoyed frequent dates at the Knitting Factory, an appearance at the JVC jazz festival, several east coast tours, and recorded three CD’s.
She has played multiple woodwinds on Broadway and at the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. She has traveled and performed with a range of groups from the Duke Ellington Orchestra to the stage of Buster Poindexter.
In the spring of 2005, she completed an MFA from SUNY Purchase. She is the baritone/Eb clarinet/flute player in Ed Palermo Big Band. The band’s most recent CD, Eddy Loves Frank, was nominated for a Grammy and continues to receive rave reviews. She also plays and has recorded three CD’s with the Jim Cifelli New York Nonet. Yes, this is her husband’s band. She earns her keep by playing: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, flute and alto flute. This band has been heard at the Bluenote as well as at numerous stages in the NYC area. She is also a member of the Diane Moser Composer’s Big Band. As the name implies, this ensemble is dedicated to the performance of new music. Most Friday nights will find Barbara holding down the baritone chair in the Birdland Big Band led by drummer, Tommy Igoe. This ensemble has an evolving repertoire from compelling classic big band favorites, to exciting new works composed exclusively for the band.
Teaching has always been an important component in Barbara’s musical life. “I find it most rewarding to help a young student discover that a hunk of wood or a piece of metal in a box can become a beautiful vehicle for communication. To ignite a spark and nature someone’s love of music is a very special thing.” She has participated in various arts outreach projects including a program dedicated to bringing music to special needs children in NYC public schools as well as was an instructor for the NY Pops educational program. She has taught at Concordia College, Hunter College and NYU and maintains an active private teaching studio. Her students range from young beginners to adults re-discovering the instrument of their youth.