Primary Instrument: Piano
Alton Merrell, a native of Warren, Ohio, is a worshiper, gospel and jazz pianist, educator, music producer, songwriter and composer. At the tender age of six, Alton's musical journey began playing the drums and piano at New Jerusalem Fellowship Church where his father Alton Merrell, Sr. is the pastor. He also served as Minister of Music at New Jerusalem directing the music ministry for twelve years beginning at age sixteen. For the last four years, Alton was an instructor at the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University. His teaching responsibilities included applied jazz piano, jazz theory, jazz keyboard, jazz improvisation, and jazz combos. Alton presently serves as the director of Covenant Church of Pittsburgh's Fine Arts Academy, a Christian arts school that offers training in music, dance, and drama to students of all ages. He is also a pianist and choir director at Covenant Church of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Bishop Joseph Garlington is the pastor.
Alton holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Education with an emphasis in Jazz and Classical Piano Performance from Youngstown State University graduating Cum Laude. He also holds a Master of Music Degree in Piano Performance from Youngstown State University. He is presently pursuing a Master of Theology from International Seminary and will soon begin doctoral studies to obtain a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Jazz Composition and Performance.
Alton has received numerous honors including: YSU Jazz Quintet Member of the Cultural Exchange Jazz Group performing in Shanghai, Nanjing, and Hangzhou, China (Summer 2004) where a number of Alton's compositions and arrangements were performed. YSU Jazz Quintet Member of the Cultural Exchange Group performing in Beijing, China (Summer 2002.) Selected to perform in a master class with world renowned jazz pianist Danillo Perez at TRI-C Jazz Festival (2002), Featured pianist in classical and jazz genres at the Dana School of Music's Showcase Concert (1999), Tri-C Jazz Festival Special Performance Citation from city of Warren's probate judge Thomas Swift and the International Association of Jazz Educators, Recipient of Outstanding Performance award with Y.S.U. Jazz Ensemble I in Big Band Category of the 2000 Down Beat magazine student music awards.
Mr. Merrell has ministered with gospel artists Martha Munizzi, Donnie McClurkin, Dorothy Norwood, LaShunn Pace-Rhodes, Rev. Timothy Wright, and Parkes Stewart. He has also been seen several times on the nationally televised Bobby Jones Gospel Show. Mr. Merrell has also performed with jazz artists: Benny Golson, Slide Hampton, James Moody, Phil Woods, Marvin Stamm, Maria Schneider, Kenny Burrell, Billy Pierrce, Conrad Herwig, Leslie Lewis, Frank Foster, Roger Humphries, and Jim Rupp. He has also been a member and soloist with, the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Cleveland State Jazz Heritage Orchestra, Pittsburgh Concert Chorale, YSU All-Star Alumni Jazz Ensemble, Warren Philharmonic Orchestra, and the OMEA Intercollegiate All-Star Jazz Ensemble.
Mr. Merrell's awesome Gospel Jazz CD entitled You're The Reason was released on November 27, 2004. He is also the producer, arranger, and principle songwriter of the dynamic gospel choir CD He Can Do It featuring The New Jerusalem Fellowship Gospel Choir located in Warren, OH. He can also be heard on the YSU All-Star Alumni Jazz Ensemble CD and YSU Jazz Ensemble recordings Burnin and the award-winning Biddle de Bop.
Alton and his wife, Kimberly, reside in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.