Winner of the 2009 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Pianist Competition, Carmen Staaf has performed throughout the United States and at the Festa do Jazz do Teatro Sao Luiz in Lisbon, Portugal, the Panama Jazz Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands, and at the Concurso de Jovenes Jazzistas (Young Jazz Musicians Contest) in Havana, Cuba. She toured India with the Xylopholks in 2010 and Europe with Benjy Fox-Rosen and Frank London in 2009. As the winner of the 2009 piano competition, Carmen will be a featured performer at the Kennedy Center during the 2010 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, Mary Lou Williams’ centennial celebration. As a winner of the 2004 IAJE Sisters in Jazz Competition, she performed at the 2005 IAJE Conference in Long Beach, California and the Mary Lou Williams Festival. In 2004, Carmen was selected to attend the International Music Council’s International Music Day celebrations in Paris, France, and performed at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago as a participant in the prestigious Steans Institute for Young Artists.
Ms. Staaf has worked with jazz luminaries including Eddie Gomez, Bob Brookmeyer, Oliver Lake, Rakalam Bob Moses, Stefon Harris and George Garzone. As an accordionist, she has performed with Lila Downs at Carnegie Hall and with Klezmatics members Frank London, Lorin Sklamberg (at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan) and Alicia Svigals, as well as with Susan Watts and Elaine Hoffman Watts. She was awarded a St Botolph Club Foundation Grant-in-Aid to record her 2008 album “Reflection”, which was called “profoundly beautiful” and features young stars Austin McMahon, Jorge Roeder and Dan Blake. She can be heard on the New Jewish group Khevre’s debut album “Oyfn Sheydveg” and with the Staaf Quartet, which she co-leads, on its eponymous first release, as well as on Richie Barshay’s album “Homework” (which features Herbie Hancock on piano). Carmen’s compositions and arrangements have been performed by pianist Ran Blake and the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra, as well as being featured on the Staaf Quartet recording and “Reflection”. She was the pianist in Malian kora master Balla Tounkara’s afro-pop group and currently performs with a variety of NYC groups, including the Xylopholks (a ragtime band featuring animal costumes) and the Prana Trio (a creative improvisation ensemble that performs settings of Rumi and Hafiz). She co-leads Four Across, a jazz quartet which has toured both coasts extensively, given clinics at the University of Oregon, and performed at Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival.
Carmen taught in the piano department at Berklee College of Music in Boston for four years upon graduating from college. She has co-led clinics at the Panama Conservatory, the University of Oregon, Seattle Central Community College, and Berklee College of Music. She studied at the New England Conservatory with Danilo Perez and Bob Brookmeyer and has immersed herself in many styles, building on a foundation of classical studies. Before college, she spent six months studying and performing in Cuba. While a student at the New England Conservatory, Carmen simultaneously completed a degree in anthropology at Tufts University, where she was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, was a University Scholar, received the Anthropology Prize and graduated summa cum laude. Upon graduating from NEC, she received the George Whitefield Chadwick Award and was nominated to the Pi Kappa Lambda Society.
Carmen’s solo piano album, with the working title “Arts and Sciences” is scheduled to come out in 2010.