artistic director



Vincent Gardner, Artistic Director

Vincent Gardner, raised in Hampton, Virginia, was born in Chicago in 1972. After much early musical exposure singing and playing piano, violin, saxophone, and French horn, he ultimately decided to pursue the trombone at the age of 12. Vincent attended Florida A&M University and the University of North Florida where he majored in jazz studies and graduated in 1996.  He earned his master's degree in jazz history and research from Rutgers University in 2013.  While at Florida A&M, he caught the ear of Mercer Ellington, who hired Gardner for his first professional job. After college, he moved to Brooklyn, New York.  One of his first jobs was a world tour with Lauryn Hill, then in 2000, he joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Vincent has served as instructor at The Juilliard School, as visiting instructor at Florida State and Michigan State universities, and as adjunct instructor at The New School.

Currently, he is the Instructor of Jazz Trombone at Northwestern University.

He has contributed many arrangements to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and other ensembles.  In 2009, he was commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center to compose “The Jesse B. Semple Suite,” a 60-minute piece inspired by the short stories of Langston Hughes. Vincent is featured on a number of notable recordings and has recorded five CDs as a bandleader for Steeplechase Records. He has performed with The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Bobby McFerrin, Harry Connick, Jr., The Saturday Night Live Band, Chaka Khan, A Tribe Called Quest, and many others. He remains a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and is the founding artistic director of Jazz Houston.


Houston is a vibrant, soulful, multicultural city that has always loved and supported its musicians and their music. Houstonians have a deep connection to jazz, America's original art form, through their love of the blues, their close geographical and cultural ties to Louisiana, and their many major jazz contributors. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring my vision for an internationally-recognized jazz institution to this city. Having worked with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center for nearly 20 years, I understand what the blueprint for a successful jazz organization looks like.

Both of my parents displayed a love of music and both are retired musicians and educators. Growing up in a musical environment served as a catalyst for me to follow my dream on the music faculties of major universities and conservatories including the Juilliard School, as well as serving in the capacity of the founding director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra. Such rich experiences have created a deep commitment to education, which I see as a fundamental tenet of the Jazz Houston’s mission and vision.

This vision includes a swinging, world-class resident jazz orchestra, its ranks filled with the finest musicians performing music that brings the richness and variety of all of the music’s eras. By collaborations with renowned musicians steeped in local, beloved genres, we can incorporate those into the sound and feeling of jazz. To cultivate a love of music with people of all ages, our detailed and focused educational programs will teach the principle beliefs of jazz and its history. And in the spirit of fostering a love of community, we want to establish a place where we can honor and celebrate the many Houstonians and Texans who have made meaningful contributions to this music. With your support, we can create Houston's center for this great art form -- Jazz.

- Vincent Gardner, Artistic Director of Jazz Houston