Connecting the California community

Connecting the California community

Meet musician and film producer Jeff Pifher ’07E

Photo Jeff Pifher ’07E

Share a bit about yourself! What are you up to now?

After lots of schooling including Eastman, University of Miami, and University of Southern California, I began my career in Los Angeles where I still reside. Recently I have released four recordings with my band called Socrates’ Trial. We perform my original music. I like to compose what I call “cinematic jazz”. It’s a combination of film score elements such as soaring melodies played alongside an orchestra with long improvised solos by all members of the band. I perform at venues such as Catalina Jazz Club here in Los Angeles and my band has been a featured guest at the Jazz Education Network Conference this past year.

As a music and film producer, I have produced a short film documentary entitled In the Same Direction: Jeff Pifher & Socrates’ Trial which chronicles my band and our latest projects garnering 24 “Best Documentary” and “Best Music” awards from film festivals worldwide. Most recently I have finished production on Somewhere, a short film musical centering around immigration reform featuring cast members from Wicked, Glee, American Idol, The Voice, and America’s Got Talent. I am the composer, lyricist, and executive producer for the film which has won “Best Musical” at NoHo Cinefest here in Los Angeles. In 2020, I produced Writing for Strings Masterclass featuring arrangements of my original music by Harlan Hodges (Star Wars: Galaxys Edge, League of Legends).

I am a member of the Recording Academy, Society of Composers and Lyricists, and several other entertainment organizations. I have also had the privilege to be a teaching artist with the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz outreach program Jazz in the Classroom.

What are your most cherished memories from your time at the University of Rochester?

Many of my fondest memories include making music with such incredible musicians and the late-night discussions about how to learn and be creative. Often my peers and I would engage in these lengthy debates that revealed how each one of us was similar but also strikingly different. Many of our goals were the same but how we went about achieving them was a unique learning experience for each of us. Sharing stories while eating at the cafeteria, making trips to the River Campus to use the exercise facilities, taking long walks in the freezing temperatures to get a favorite food fix, watching friends perform music and being inspired to reach for more, helping out lost visitors during audition weekends, and laughing until you cry about the nerdiest music jokes are all cherished memories from my time at Eastman.

How did campus life and any co-curricular involvement (clubs, organizations, teams, etc.) impact your personal and professional growth?

Part of my daily routine was to travel from the Eastman campus to the River Campus to use the University exercise facilities. While there, I was able to engage with students studying different fields and participate in other activities such as festivals and gatherings. This experience allowed me to get out of my own head, gain more perspective, and begin to hone my networking skills. As a performer, producer, educator, and member of the entertainment community in Los Angeles, these are extremely useful if not essential skills.

Did the University offer any resources or initiatives that helped you transition smoothly into the workforce?

While I did not reach out to or receive direct help from the University administration when I began establishing a performing career in Los Angeles, it was through my fellow Eastman alumni that I was able to secure my first opportunities. Currently, I am benefiting from the University by volunteering and staying involved.

How did your experience at the University of Rochester influence your life?

Teachers at Eastman are some of the best around. I learned so much from a music and career perspective from them however, what has had the most influence on my life is what I learned from my peers. Through discussions and daily interactions with my Eastman peers, I learned not only “how to learn” but how I learn best. I was able to witness firsthand the daily dedication and discipline needed to succeed in the entertainment industry. These are traits that are now a part of my daily life and that I employ throughout my endeavors.

What sparked your initial interest in volunteering with the University? What role(s) have you held?

Connecting with local leaders in the community initially fueled my interest in volunteering with the University. I have been able to meet so many incredible people who are making notable contributions. I have been able to get involved in rewarding experiences that are a direct result of volunteering with the University and being a member of the University of Rochester Network Leader Council.

What advice do you have for fellow alumni and friends who may be interested in taking a more active role in our alumni and friends’ community?

This alumni and friends community is so welcoming so don’t be afraid to get involved, take initiative, and share your ideas. Let your passion for giving and connecting shine through!

What’s the most rewarding part of staying connected with your alma mater? 

There are several aspects of staying connected that I find rewarding. Being able to give back through different University-sponsored events by helping others make connections, building and expanding this strong community, and supporting other alumni to reach their goals has been a truly rewarding experience that also fills me with a sense of pride to be an alumnus of the University of Rochester.

—Amelia Sykes, Spring 2024