Ralph Lalama – Educator

Adjunct Professor at New York University (info)
Adjunct Professor at SUNY Purchase (info)

A graduate of the Dana School of Music of Youngstown State University (OH), Ralph Lalama was discovered there during a visit by the legendary Thad Jones. The renowned trumpeter/composer/arranger encouraged him to come to New York and hired him for his first gigs there. Since that time, Lalama has reached a dignified status as a widely respected master of the tenor.

Teaching Philosophy:

My philosophy is to make the learning experience for my students a meaningful one, by providing a real-world environment for his or her personal, artistic and educational growth. First, you must extrude from your individual talent everything you can — through constant practice and growing your listening skills — in order to propel yourself to the next level.

There is a considered demand for accountability in my teaching, be it private or ensemble, which not only will produce maturity in your playing but serves to raise your awareness and appreciation of what it means to be a contributor to the greater musical community.

This is absolutely necessary if anyone hopes to succeed as an artist and/or professional. I expect no less of myself than I do my students, and this includes continually setting goals for improvement and artistic growth. There are real tools for accomplishing these aims that I employ every day and have successfully shared with my students.

The positive results are tangible in the quantum leaps they make as individuals and as members of an ensemble. My passion and respect for this music is fueled in part by my enthusiasm and commitment to share it with students who are as serious about learning as I am.

Teaching Impact:

Lalama’s impact as a jazz educator is made evident by the evolution and success of his many students through his decades-long association with two prestigious jazz programs, at New York University for twenty-five years and at State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase for over a decade. His private studies and his “High Standard” ensembles have nurtured and produced musicians who have gone on to become professional musicians and educators. He has been an effective teacher at the high school level, as well. One of his students received two consecutive National DownBeat Awards for Best High School Jazz Soloist. He received recognition from the fraternity of music education when he was featured in a cover article in the national publication, Saxophone Journal.

Teaching Activities:

He has brought his teaching skills to a number of schools around the country and beyond, including Laguardia High School of Arts, Greenwich (CT) H.S., Sayville, L.I. (NY), Midland High (PA), to name a few. He has instructed an international collective of students through Manhattan School of Music’s Marca Jazz Camp in Venice, Italy and also taught clinics in Assisi, Italy, and Tokyo, Japan. He is a founding member of New York’s Westchester (County) Jazz Orchestra (WJO) that, in addition to their accomplished concert series, is active in their educational outreach program to jazz students in Westchester County’s public schools.

As a guest clinician/artist, he has taught at Eastman School of Music, University of Memphis, University of Louisville, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Temple University, and at Hofstra University, where his brother, Dr. David Lalama, is a professor of jazz studies, as well as an accomplished pianist, composer and arranger.

The tenor master is a member of the New York Jazz Initiative (NYJI) whose mission is to “foster the advancement, creative spirit, and appreciation of jazz arts through education and performance activities that harness the talent of master jazz musicians to educate and inspire the next generation of performers and listeners.” A key component of the NYJI program is to have students play not only in student groups but alongside master musicians. Coming full circle in a tribute to the man who encouraged him as a young musician, the NYJI recorded a tribute to the music of Thad Jones, “Mad About Thad”.

Private Teaching:

Ralph Lalama offers private instruction. To request further information, please reach him through the “Contact” page on this site.