Terell Stafford

The shift from classical to jazz was a turbulent one, Terell Stafford told writer Leah Hood. “The jazz musicians told me don’t do it because it is too late to have a career in jazz. The classical musicians told me don’t do it — it’s going to ruin your classical career. So I got this negative vibe from both sides."

Today Stafford is the Director of Jazz Studies and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, founder and band leader of the Terell Stafford Quintet, and Managing and Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia (JOP). He has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner.

I met Stafford through a Philadelphia Chamber Music Society project exploring the concept of “late style”—that is, what do artists create when they have nothing left to prove?

“At this point in my life I am not so concerned about letting people know who I am,” Stafford said. “What I am concerned about is feeding my palate, my passion for the music, so that I can constantly grow. … That is my creative process now.”