Chris Oatts, Jazz Band Director

Role(s) at Shipley
Jazz Band Director
Honors Combo Director
Upper School Music Teacher
Jazz Improvisation
Music Theory and Composition
Advanced Music Composition and Production

B.M. Temple University
M.M. Temple University

Prior Professional Experience
I’ve performed, toured, or recorded with: The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Seal, Terell Stafford, Jennifer Hudson, Cynthia Erivo, Wycliffe Gordon, Prism Saxophone Quartet.
Adjunct Faculty, Jazz Studies, Temple University

Outside Performance Groups or Professional Organizations
Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia
Philly Pops Big Band
Chris Oatts Quintet
Chelsea Reed and the Fair Weather Five
South Philly Big Band
Bachelor Boys Band
Director of Temple University Swingin Owls

How/why did you get into music?
I come from a musical family from Des Moines, Iowa, so music has always been a part of my life. My father, Jim Oatts, is a great trumpet player who toured with Stan Kenton, Machito, and the Jazz-Rock band Chas; my uncle is alto saxophone giant Dick Oatts of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra; and my Grandfather Jack Oatts (who’s saxophone I play), is known for starting the first high school jazz band in the state of Iowa. Music and music education have always been in my blood. 

What is your music teaching philosophy or style?
I believe in creating strong personal relationships with students and prefer providing big picture structure for my students to let their musical personality shine and be creative within. I hope to instill a love of music and learning to empower students to explore and teach themselves for years to come. Musically, I preach a strong foundation with everything pointing back to sound production, rhythm and time, and a heavy diet of listening. 

How would your students describe you?
Passionate yet easy-going. A teacher who challenges them but is easy to approach. 

Do you have any musical heroes or inspiration? If so, who are they and why?
In no particular order: John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Sidney Bechet, Johnny Hodges, Dick Oatts, Terell Stafford. These are some of the musicians I grew up listening to and who I hope to emulate in my own playing. 

What music do you listen to for fun?
It’s really all over the map and depends on the week, to be honest!  I’m always checking out new recordings, but some classics I always return to are Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, D’Angelo, and Tower of Power.

Fun fact about you?
I am a triplet, three boys who all play instruments. 

Anything else you’d like people to know about you?
Come ask me anything about music or jazz.  I’m always happy to give listening recommendations!
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.