John Daversa is a multi-Grammy winning artist, composer, arranger, producer, bandleader, educator, Chair and Professor of Studio Music and Jazz at The Frost School of Music, University of Miami.
Originally from Los Angeles, Daversa grew up in a musical household. He passionately listened, composed, sang and played various instruments, eventually picking up the trumpet at age eleven. His family moved several times, residing in Ada, Oklahoma, Las Vegas, and Sacramento, though ultimately returning to Los Angeles where he attended Hamilton Academy of Music for his final two years of high school. While a student at Hamilton, he began writing for large and small jazz ensembles, playing the Electric Valve Instrument (EVI), and performing regularly with his high school quartet, Second Generation. He was also a member of the Monterey All-Star High School Big Band for four years, touring Japan and performing with iconic guest artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, J.J. Johnson, and Clark Terry. Upon high school graduation, he was recognized with the Herb Alpert Award and Italian Heritage Award and soon began pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree at UCLA in music composition and performance.
Throughout the 1990’s, Daversa continued to develop as a performer and composer, winning the National Trumpet Competition, the International Trumpet Guild Jazz Soloist Competition, the David Joel Miller Award for Composition and Performance, and was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Jazz Trumpet Competition. He led various ensembles including the Junk Wagon Trio, The D.a.M. Band, and created the John Daversa Progressive Big Band in 1996. The D.a.M. Band released its eponymous album in 1994, and the John Daversa Big Band recorded Live at Catalina’sin 2000.
From 2000 to 2003, Daversa toured Europe as the musical director for Holiday On Ice, In Concert, performing on trumpet, E.V.I., electric bass and spoken word.During the production’s summer hiatuses, he would return to the U.S., performing with renowned American crooners, Andy Williams and Glen Campbell, in Branson, Missouri.
After touring engagements, Daversa returned to Los Angeles with a focus on higher education. In 2006, he earned a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Jazz Studies at California Institute of the Arts. He earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Jazz Studies at University of Southern California in 2009 and was recognized with the USC Jazz Studies Department Award. The following two years, he remained at USC as an adjunct instructor and received a nomination for the Mellon Award for Excellence in Mentoring. In 2011, he accepted a full-time position at California State University, Northridge. Under Daversa’s direction, the CSUN Jazz “A” Band was awarded winner of the Collegiate Division Best Large Jazz Ensemble at the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival, Downbeat Awards, and California Allegiance for Jazz State Championship.
During this time, Daversa established the John Daversa Small Band and revitalized the John Daversa Progressive Big Band. Lively monthly residencies were cultivated at local Los Angeles jazz venues; namely, The Baked Potato, Blue Whale, and Seven Grand. The personnel chemistry and compositions created during these performances generated the material for Daversa’s albums Junk Wagon: The Big Band Album(2011) andArtful Joy(2012). Junk Wagon: The Big Band Albumreceived the Global Music Award for Best in Show, Creativity, Originality and Album Production. Throughout this period, Daversa was the musical director for recording artist, Renee Olstead, touring internationally and appearing on television platforms such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Late Nite with David Letterman, and The Today Show. Daversa’s songwriting won an IAMA Songwriting Award and he composed numerous commissions for various universities and chamber music organizations. He was also active performing and/or recording with Fiona Apple, Burt Bacharach, Dori Caymi, Andrae Crouch, Dr. Dre, Herbie Hancock, Bob Mintzer Big Band, Regina Spektor, The Yellowjackets, and others. Daversa is the trumpet player behind the scenes of Key andPeele’s comedy episode, “Overly Competitive Trumpeters”, and played for various television and films including King of Queens, The Five-Year Engagmentand Promised Land.
In 2013, Daversa relocated to Miami, accepting a position as Chair of Studio Music and Jazz at Frost School of Music, University of Miami. Upon this appointment, he emphasized opening space for an inclusive environment, encouraging collaboration, imagination, creativity, and free thinking.Under Daversa’s direction, the Frost Concert Jazz Band was awarded winner of the Collegiate Division Best Large Jazz Ensemble for the Downbeat Awards and the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival (twice), performed in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago, and produced multiple original albums. In 2020, Daversa received the Frost Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship.
Since moving to Miami, Daversa has produced several noteworthy albums. In 2017, Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatlesgarnered three Grammy nominations for Best Large Jazz Ensemble, Best Arrangement Instrumental, and Best Arrangement Vocals or Acapella. In 2019, American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom won three Grammy awards for Best Large Jazz Ensemble, Best Arrangement Instrumental, and Best Improvised Solo. In 2019, he musical directed and co-produced Shoulder to Shoulder: Centennial Tribute to Women’s Suffrage, by Karrin Allyson Sextet. In 2020, he musical directed, co-produced, and played on Regina Carter Freedom Band’sSwing States: Harmony in the Battleground. The same year, John Daversa Quintet released Cuarentena: With Family at Home, an homage to familial love and the healing power of music through the muse of the bolero, featuring Miami based musicians Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Carlo De Rosa, Dafnis Prieto, and Sammy Figueroa.
Daversa is dedicated to creating meaningful, honest music with positive intention. He is a Schilke Music Artist, NuEVI artist, and long-time Lakers fan.
“John Daversa is one of those rare musicians who is an incredible soloist and an accomplished orchestrator, a composer with an identifiable voice, and an articulate artist who does things in a focused way, always with a clear vision of the hows and whys.”
-Bob Mintzer, Saxophonist, Educator
“Daversa gets sounds to come out of his little red trumpet like you never heard. The band itself ditto, as if Duke Ellington and Béla Bartók had come down from on high and written some brilliant 21st century music for a big band of Berklee post-graduate superstars.”
-Tony Gieske, Los Angeles Times
“It takes a rare talent to be able to make a large band sound "small" (in terms of agility as well as in the transparency and lightness of orchestration), and, vice-versa, some measure of genius to make a small band seem big...”
-Peter Erskine, Drummer, Educator