A true craftsman hones freedom and creativity from the staid traditions of everyday life. Trombonist Shawn Bell exemplifies this creed. His omnivorous playing and writing have been called “soulful” and “captivatingly quirky.” A commitment to making music not bound by the doctrine of a single style or genre has given Bell a unique voice as a musician, composer, and educator.
A recent transplant to Omaha, Shawn’s training started at Western Michigan University where he studied with Dr. Steve Wolfinbarger and Dr. Scott Cowan. Graduating from WMU in 2006, Bell continued his formal training at Northern Illinois University where he obtained a master’s degree in Jazz studies in 2010.
Outside the walls of academia, Shawn has spent the last ten years building a resume marked by variety. In 2010, he release his debut album Things Yet Unknown to critical acclaim. The Midwest Record Review noted, “Solid playing and writing, a great tone and a young, untamed spirit all team up to make this a delightfully auspicious debut.” JazzTimes’s website stated, “To find a young trombonist like Shawn with this level of command and virtuosity is amazing.” Along with his work as a leader, Bell has also distinguished himself as a first-call freelance player, who is at home performing with groups ranging from R&B and Funk bands to pit orchestras and studio ensembles.
Just as Shawn stood on the shoulders of masters to start his career, he now works to do the same for the next generation of trombonists, low brass players, and Jazz musicians. Bell has over ten years of experience working with students at the middle school, high school, and college levels. Shawn’s students receive a highly individualized lesson experience that focuses on each student’s ability level and goals. Along with maintaining a full private lesson studio, he has also taught large and small Jazz ensembles at Northern Illinois University and has taught music theory, songwriting and arranging, and trombone at Lansing Community College. Shawn is also an experienced clinician and guest artist who has worked with Jazz ensembles throughout the Midwest. Elements of his approach to leading large Jazz ensembles can be found in the 2016 book Teaching Music Through Performance in Jazz: Volume 2.