workshops & lectures




Lewis Porter, P.h.D., is a Grammy-nominated pianist and composer on 30 albums with Dave Liebman, John Patitucci, Terri Lyne Carrington, and many others, as well as a celebrated educator, author, and researcher. His best-known book is John Coltrane: His Life and Music. A long-time former music professor at Rutgers in Newark and at Tufts U, he also taught at The New School, Manhattan School of Music, NYU, William Paterson, and Brandeis, as well as guest teaching throughout the USA and Europe.

In addition to being a pianist, Dr. Porter has performed on saxophone, drums, and voice, and has some experience with string instruments (as well as basic brass). He was the first jazz band director at both Tufts (from 1977-86) and Brandeis (simultaneous, from 1979-85), and also directed the concert band at Tufts, so he is experienced at working with every instrument. He has worked with singers as well, co-teaching workshops and classes with vocalists Janet Lawson, Sheila Jordan, Jazzmeia Horn and others.

 Typically, Dr. Porter spends one to three days at a college, teaching and conducting workshops and rehearsals during the day and performing at night, either solo piano or with faculty or local professionals. For big bands or small groups, he can send some of his innovative compositions in advance, and then will rehearse and perform them with students when he is in residence.

 He has offered concerts, workshops and masterclasses at Harvard, Skidmore, Michigan State, Amsterdam Conservatory, Sibelius Akademe (Finland), Siena Jazz Workshop (Italy), Rocella Jonica Festival (Italy), New England Conservatory, Boston University, North Texas University (twice), Berklee College of Music (seven times), Williams College (twice), U Penn, Temple U, various locations in Spain, Denmark, and the UK, University of  Tours (France), Houston High School of Performing and Visual Arts, Lexington High School, etc., etc.


Sample Workshop Topics

(typically two hours each, but can be shorter, or on the other hand can be extended to several classes over several days, etc.):


Dr. Porter will work on improvisation, using blues and familiar tunes, at the level of the musicians participating. He provides handouts as needed, and/or web resources. He demonstrates and explains techniques as well as artistic concerns.


The class begins with a discussion of notating jazz (historical overview, and practical difficulties). It proceeds to class transcriptions of four measure excerpts: a slow Billie Holiday vocal, then a slow Parker solo. We will start filling in the rhythm section behind Parker. If there's time, we will also try an uptempo solo excerpt.


This is a truly “hands on” workshop for piano students at any level. Dr. Porter then offers each student directions about the basic posture and mechanics of piano playing. He then offers practice regimens to improve technique, for each student at his or her level. As the course proceeds, Dr. Porter shows them his “pivot system” for practicing jazz voicings in all keys. Finally he works with them on linear right hand melodic improvisation, again addressing each student at his or her own level, from basic scalar ideas to advanced bitonal techniques.


Dr. Porter has studied various kinds of world music, has performed since the ‘70s with musicians from India, and was in a group with celebrated tablaist Badal Roy, and is currently in another group with saxophonist Phil Scarff who performs Indian music.


By request, Dr. Porter has on occasion prepared presentations on every conceivable topic, from Coltrane to Lester Young to Louis Armstrong to jazz research methods, to private lessons, etc. etc. Name your topic!



Lew brings a wonderful combination of a high intellect (check the Coltrane book and others) and a passion for playing; in total a potent combination.

 — Dave Liebman (saxophonist, composer, educator, author)

Great having you at Temple. The students were very inspired and are still talking about it. Your presentation was just what our students needed to hear. I hope to get a chance to play with you at some point. You gave a great concert as well. The freedom you displayed was inspirational and opened doors for many who thought it was not possible.

— Dick Oatts (saxophonist, educator, Temple University)

I had the pleasure of taking Lewis Porter's Jazz Historiography course during graduate school, and it was easily one of the most life-altering experiences I have ever had. That alone would make me a fan for life, but fortunately for me I genuinely love his music. He is a creative, soulful and accomplished pianist who affirms that legit musicianship and scholarly accomplishment can truly enrich one another.

— Noah Baerman (pianist, educator, author)

Thank you so much for visiting our school and working with our students. You really connected with the students! We'd love to have you back for another visit.

Warren Sneed (educator, Houston High School of Performing and Visual Arts)