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Justin ChesarekArtist Affiliate: Jazz Percussion


When Justin Chesarek, one of Atlanta’s go-to percussionists, was a child living in Pennsylvania,
his father sat him down and educated him, via the Beatles Anthology documentary. The
mesmerized ten year old was hooked, and after two years of formal drum study with Randy
Roth, a remarkable Pittsburgh-area drum educator, he was gigging with Pittsburgh jazz legend
Harold Betters, taking advantage of the experience as an early version of on-the-job training. He
also counts the invaluable experience of listening to Roger Humphries, well-known for his work
with Horace Silver, as a significant step in his early musical education. This was just the beginning.

After earning a Bachelors of Music in Music Education from Slippery Rock University
where Chesarek studied under Dr. David Glover and Dr. Stephen Hawk, he trekked south to Atlanta
in 2008 to pursue a Masters of Music and Jazz Studies at Georgia State University. A year after
his arrival, Justin landed a Wednesday show at Churchill Grounds, Atlanta’s premier jazz club at
the time. The gig continued for the next five years and along the way, Chesarek began to fill his
calendar, making a name for himself as an exceptional musician.

He performs regularly with Joe Alterman, Trey Wright, The Joe Gransden Big Band, Sam
Burchfield, and he is a regular at the Atlanta Jazz Festival. He’s performed at the The Iridium and
The Blue Note in New York, D.C’s Kennedy Center, a TED Talk, the Juneau Jazz and Classics
Festival in Alaska, not to mention trips across the pond to play The North Sea Jazz Festival in
Holland and the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

Chesarek has gigged with locals and legends, notably neo-bop pianist Johnny O’Neal, trumpeter
and Grammy Nominee Russell Gunn, alto-saxophonist Houston Person, Count Basie Orchestra
vocalist Carmen Bradford, and Donny McCaslin, saxophonist on Blackstar, David
Bowie’s final studio album.

Chesarek’s love of music extends to the classroom as well. He teaches Jazz Percussion at
Kennesaw State University, he is the Artist Affiliate of Jazz Percussion at Emory University, Professor
of Percussion at Morehouse College, and he runs a private studio of his own in which he
works with students of all ages. He has had students go on to become professional touring musicians,
Broadway theater pit players, and top call Atlanta drummers. He is a proud endorser of
Canopus Drums. Justin lives in Decatur, with his wife and daughters.