Niel Woodard

Niel Woodard

BandJazz

Jazz, blues, inspirational jazz and latin jazz

Biography

Growing up in Woodside Queens, NY, Neil R. Woodard learned about the joy music can bring to people of all ages. Music was an integral part of Neil’s life and spiritual upbringing during his early childhood years. All of his family members were musicians in varying levels. His parents and siblings all performed in the church. Susan Smith, Neil’s maternal grandmother, was still playing the trumpet, the piano and singing gospel songs to honor God at the age of 80. Neil recalls his shock and confusion when his eighty year old grandmother picked up her trumpet one day and started playing. At age nine he questioned how an elderly woman could play the instrument. He even wondered if she had to get permission to play. He soon learned that music transcends age and gender.

Neil learned to play the saxophone in elementary school. In the early seventies he attended the High School of Music and Art (now known as La Guardia High School of the Performing Arts) where he majored in vocal music. Among his classmates were Nat Adderly Jr., Noel Pointer, Lisette Wilson, Marcus Miller, Ray Chu, and Tanya Willoughby to mention a few. Not only was he in good company, he was in awe of the creative spirit that flowed throughout the entire student body of adolescents still learning their craft.

While basketball was a major part of Neil’s life during his years at Saint Paul’s College, the right relationship with God was not to be disregarded.

After college Neil found that working with young people was not only fulfilling, but important work. He worked as a counselor and teacher with middle and high school students.

In 2001 Neil was presented with an opportunity to teach instrumental music to middle school students at the Tito Puente Performing Arts Academy @J117 in East Harlem, NY. He taught the seventh and eighth grade band classes and African drumming. Neil says that this experience convinced him that music was his calling.

During the past five years Neil has focused on playing congas, keyboard and arranging music. Mentored by musician, Eric Frazier, he has had opportunities to perform with a host of professional musicians including, Eric Frazier, Wayne Jeffries and David Lee Jones.

As President and CEO of Performing Arts For Life, Neil is working on several projects including an interactive program for children, which integrates original music and stories. He is also in the process of producing a CD and engaging the professional talents of musicians whom he has worked with as well as up and coming talented youth he has taught and performed with in the past.