By David Burton
Jazz teacher and longtime musician Shawn Costantino has produced his own jazz record entitled “A Waltz for Anne.”
From listening to his father, a former professional guitarist, to weekly piano and saxophone lessons as a kid, to graduating from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in music, music has been an integral part of Costantino’s life. Although surrounded by various melodic tones every day of his life, Constantino’s inspiration to pursue his passion for music came from his mother, Anne Costantino.
“She would drive me to and from lessons, be at every piano recital and encouraged me to practice when I refused to,” said Costantino. “My mother is the reason that I have stuck with music, hence the reason why I named the album after her.”
Born and raised in Blackwell, Massachusetts, Costantino learned how to play both the piano and saxophone in elementary school and on the weekends would play jazz with his father, a professional guitarist.
“After I got past the initial dreariness of practicing, I found out that I loved playing the saxophone and began to try combining different chords to create different sounds,” Costantino said.
In college, Costantino continued to explore and compose music with hopes of one day creating his own jazz album.
Pursuing his graduate degree at DePaul University, Costantino became a member of the internationally recognized DePaul Jazz Ensemble and played alongside renowned jazz musicians such as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and saxophonist David “Fat Head” Newman.
Now head of the upper school jazz program, Costantino has found the opportunity to pursue a style of music he describes as aggressive jazz fusion for adventurous artists not afraid to take chances.
Last fall, the upper school received a donation of electronic music and studio equipment. Costantino was asked by the administration to set up this equipment, learn how to use it and teach it to students interested in producing their own music.
“I had no idea how to use the equipment once we got it. It took many hours, days, weekends and people to make all this come together,” Costantino said.
Using a school grant, Costantino hired a sound engineer to teach him how to use the equipment and started producing music at a studio in Sherman Oaks.
Costantino personally wired some of the music rooms in the lower Chalmers building so that artists can record in one room and all recordings are funneled to an electronic music hub in a central room, where they are put together by music software. With the Chalmers building set up as a professional music studio, Costantino tested the new system out by recording an album.
“My jazz CD was a guinea pig in a sense,” Costantino said. “You can’t learn how to produce music if you have nothing to produce.”
On weekends throughout the fall, Costantino and fellow musicians could be found spending long hours recording their songs in the lower Chalmers music rooms. The album took approximately six months to complete.
With knowledge about music production under his belt, Costantino has opened up the new system to students looking to step out of the curriculum and record their own musical compositions.
“The equipment is very intricate and complex, but allows a student to pursue their own style of music in depth and explore different sounds,” Costantino said.
Costantino is working on his second album, and although it is still a work in progress, he is looking to stay true to his adventurous jazz style. His music is currently for sale on iTunes.