Better Than Baseball: Jazz Man Jeff Barone '93

Jazz guitarist Jeff Barone ’93 has built a rich life around the art form he loves.  by George Sapio

Jeff Barone ’93 knows he is a very lucky man — he’s an artist who makes his living doing what he loves.

Jeff, who majored in music education at IC, has worked as a session guitarist with dozens of top jazz performers, including Reuben Wilson, Jack Wilkins, and Jimmy Lovelace.

His first CD, Crazy Talk, debuted in 2003 to rave reviews, and his second CD, Open Up, released last year, also received excellent reviews and broke the top 40 on the JazzWeek charts.

He fronts his own band, the Jeff Barone Quartet, was featured on the cover of the August 2008 issue of Just Jazz Guitar, and has played guitar for numerous Broadway shows, such as Patti Lupone on Broadway, James Joyce’s The Dead, Seussical, and, currently, Wicked.

Jeff has appeared at major festivals, including the JVC Jazz Festival, and even at Carnegie Hall. He has produced CDs for jazz greats Mike Dubaniewicz and James Silberstein, and holds the guitar chair for the Big Apple Circus.

Oh, and he’s on the guitar faculty at the Trevor Day Music Conservatory in Manhattan.

Not bad for a guy who “only wanted to be a working guitar player.”

Jeff was eight when he received his first guitar, as a Christmas present. His parents, Roy and Nancy, both played piano. “My mom could sight-read, and my dad basically played a boogie-woogie in F,” Jeff says. Their son took to the guitar quite easily and was a music teacher’s dream, always prepared.

“Some people see practicing and playing as work,” Jeff says. “To me it’s always been fun. I used to leave baseball practice to go home for lessons.”

As a teenager in Syracuse, New York, Jeff earned a good reputation as a player and was in demand. He jammed out with local bands, played with various touring musical companies, and even played with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.

Jeff’s Ithaca College experience didn’t turn out the way he’d planned it, and he almost left the school. He’d wanted to major in instrumental education and become a concert band director, but because his instrument was guitar he was put into the choral education department. Worried, he talked with David Riley, then chair of the music education department, and associate dean Jamal Rossi, who worked out an alternative.

“They arranged for me to start taking the courses I really wanted,” Jeff says, “but there was a catch.”

The catch was he had to learn a whole new instrument and, after a year, successfully audition for that program. Considering Ithaca College’s high standards for acceptance, this was not an easy option. But, determined, Jeff began studying marimba with Gordon Stout in addition to his program in classical guitar.

Jeff’s work ethic, coupled with his natural musical talent, led him to pass the audition with flying colors. “I owe a lot to Riley and Rossi,” Jeff says. “They thought enough of me to be flexible and let me stay at the school. Ithaca College was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”

Among the many good things in his life — teaching, producing, composing, and performing music — are his home in Westchester County, and the women with whom he shares it: his wife, Resa Glicksman Barone ’92, a health education teacher, and six-year-old daughter, Jenna. “I’ve been very, very lucky,” Jeff says.

Perhaps. But his good fortune owes much to his talent, dedication, and hard work.