Composer, arranger, bandleader, lyricist, and drummer Art Lillard grew up in Miami, where his jazz roots include playing with the great master Ira Sullivan and studying with pianist/composer Wally Cirillo. Art also studied at Karl Berger’s Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York, where his instructors included Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Stu Martin, and John Surman. Subsequently, he graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston with a bachelor’s degree in composition and arranging, having garnered multiple scholarships and honors along the way. Art has also studied with Dean Anderson, Steve Bagby, Tom Boras, Paul Caputo, Andrew Cyrille, Mike Gibbs, Mike Holober, Greg Hopkins, Joe Hunt, Jim McNeely, Portinho, Maria Schneider, Kenny Werner, and Eliot Zigmund.
Art’s nine-horn Heavenly Big Band has been playing in clubs and concert spaces since 1987. Their compact disc, “Reasons to be Thankful,” was released on the Summit Records label in 2006, and their “Certain Relationships” in 2015. Art’s On Time Band, a trio/quartet that has been performing for many years, produced a recording, “It’s Time,” released by Summit in 2009. In 1998, Art's seven-piece swing band, Blue Heaven, appeared on television playing original compositions on two episodes of CBS's daytime series, Guiding Light.”
A professional musician since 1970, Art has had a rich performing career. He has led and co-led many jazz ensembles. He has also played drums as a sideman in groups of various musical genres, including jazz, country & western, cabaret, rock, and show music. He has recorded with some of these groups. Along the way, he has played with such jazz luminaries as Ben Brown, Jaki Byard, Gilly Coggins, Junior Cook, Kenny Davern, Buddy DeFranco, Joe Diorio, Bobby Forrester, Eric Gunnison, Greg Hopkins, Paul Horn, Nancy King, Cecil McBee, Arturo O’Farrill, the aforementioned Ira Sullivan, and many more.