Pitt Jazz Spotlight

Throwing a spotlight on our Faculty, Instructors, and Students.

Ladies and gentlemen, let's welcome to the stage...


kenny Powell on sax

Kenny joined the University of Pittsburgh in 2014 as an Adjunct Instructor teaching major applied saxophone and has served as a jazz history instructor as well as a Brackenridge Research Fellowship Faculty Mentor. He is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio where as a youngster, he studied the flute under the watchful eyes of Eugene Marquis and Robert Cavally of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. It was also during his formative years where he began to play a variety of woodwind instruments including the piccolo, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones and the clarinet. After high school, Kenny continued his formal flute study with Robert Cavally at Wright State University. He later transferred to Kentucky State University where he majored in music and performed in the jazz ensembles, concert orchestra, marching band and wind ensemble. Upon graduation, he returned to Cincinnati where he taught music in the public schools, performed with the Kings Island live shows division and the Pavilion Music Company. While a student at KSU, Kenny met Dr. Nathan Davis and eventually enrolled in Pitt’s Ethnomusicology program, graduating in 1985. His master thesis was entitled: The jazz improvisational styles of flutists Hubert Laws and James Moody: an analytical study.

kenny Powell on clarinet

Kenny currently has residencies in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and is musically active in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York tristate area as a free-lance musician, member of the John Parker and Dreamscape bands as well as a private studio woodwind instructor frequently performing at major galas, concerts and private events. His primary instruments are the members of the flute, saxophone and clarinet families. He has logged performances with an extensive list of world class entertainers including: George Benson, Aretha Franklin, Sean Jones, Christian McBride, Lena Horne, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Count Basie Orchestra, Ahmad Jamal, Kenny Burrell, Al Martino, Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Patti Austin, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Donald Byrd, Louie Bellson, Nathan Davis, Geri Allen, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Joe Harris, Doc Severinson, James Moody, Don Rickles, Smothers Brothers, Joan Rivers and many others. Kenny’s mentor Dr. Nathan Davis, frequently referred to him as being one of the most talented jazz flutists in the country.  In 2003, Kenny won the National Flute Association’s Jazz Flute Masterclass Competition and won the title again in 2015.  As a result, he subsequently performed in Las Vegas, New York City and Washington, D.C. 

Kenny is also a member of the inaugural NFA Jazz Flute Big Band under the direction of flutist Ali Ryerson where he performed with fellow flutists Hubert Laws, Lew Tabackin, Jamie Baum and Greg Pattillo. He’s also appeared as a guest soloist with the Drexel, Central State and University of Pittsburgh jazz ensembles. Additionally, he has the longest standing tenure as a former member of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra from 1985 to 2015 having served under the direction of saxophonist Nathan Davis and later, Mack Avenue recording trumpet artist Sean Jones.

Professional memberships and affilations include Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., National Association of Secondary School Principals, American Federation of Musicians, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Preservation Jazz Society of Pittsburgh. He is also affiliated with and has served on the following Advisory Boards: Sweetwater Center for the Ars, Allegheny Regional Asset District, Gateway to the Arts, RiverQuest, Extreme Strings Academy, Pittsburgh International Children’s Theatre and Point Park College Department of Education Curriculum. Powell is the former Chairperson for the Sewickley Valley YMCA Black Achievers Steering Committee and former mentor for the Westinghouse High School Business and Finance Academy. His awards include: Hawthorn Club of Sewickley’s Distinguished Black Male Award, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, Who’s Who Among American Teachers, and the International Youth in Achievement Award of Cambridge, England. 

As a former Senior Administrator at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School located in Midland, Pennsylvania, he has served as the Principal, Assistant Executive Director and Director of Teacher Evaluation. Prior to joining the administrative ranks of the PA Cyber Charter School, he served for over ten years as the Principal of Quaker Valley Middle School in Sewickley, PA., a school that obtained National Blue Ribbon status during his tenure with the district. Before he entered the field of educational administration, Powell served as a middle school instrumental music teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools for nine years. He also worked for the Urban League of Pittsburgh as a Program Coordinator, taught at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts and served as an instructor in the music department at Slippery Rock University. 

Kenny earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education from Kentucky State University in 1979. He also holds a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology (1985) and a Doctor of Education degree (2002) both from the University of Pittsburgh.

kenny Powell on flute