Profiles in Jazz by Emily Kaitz

His day job used to be teaching jazz drumming at Webster University in St. Louis. These days it’s being a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist. But Andrew Sieff still finds time to perform as a drummer with various jazz combos in Northwest Arkansas and has put together a monthly jazz series, Sunday Jazz at Nature’s Water.

Sieff (rhymes with “leaf”) grew up in the greater New York City area. After high school he attended the Manhattan School of Music, studying classical percussion with Paul Price and attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied with drummer Alan Dawson. Later, in New York, he studied for a year with legendary drummer Elvin Jones. Over the years Sieff has played with jazz greats like Art Lande, the late Claude “Fiddler” Williams, Lincoln Goines, Jack Wilkins and Teddy Kotick. Currently he continues his studies with Paul Wertico, seven-time Grammy Award winning drummer of the Pat Metheny Group.

In the 1980s Sieff was living in Columbia, Mo., playing in a quintet called “Jazz on Five,” which toured regionally—Kansas City, Springfield, St. Louis. In 1985, someone put the group in touch with Robert Ginsburg—now head of the North Arkansas Jazz Society—who was booking a Sunday night jazz series in the old Mountain Inn on College Avenue. The combo appeared there, and had a return engagement several months later. This was Sieff’s introduction to NWA and its jazz scene. Sieff didn’t move here until 2003, after he’d completed his master’s degree in advanced-practice psychiatric nursing at the University of Colorado (1997) and then lived in Alaska for five years.

“There was a small jazz scene in Anchorage, but we didn’t feel very socially connected there,” Sieff said, referring to his wife Jana Stephens, then his fiancée, with whom he shared the Alaska experience. “We found people in Alaska very amiable, but they seemed quite content in keeping to themselves and their immediate families. Jana and I were looking for more of a sense of community, in general and musically.”

Stephens is also in the nursing profession. The couple knew they could relocate and find work. They were considering Columbia, Mo. and Fayetteville, but chose Arkansas because the advanced practice nursing laws are more progressive here.

“We’re happy with our decision,” Sieff said. “We love the community in Fayetteville.”

Sieff’s first musical foray after moving to Northwest Arkansas was playing for a year and a half in a quartet called “Out On The Town” with Bonnie and Stephen Turner (piano, bass and vocals) and guitarist Greg Salerno. During that time he also started playing occasionally with guitarist and bassist Jim Greeson and soon became part of the pool of jazz regulars who perform at Bordino’s, First Night and other local settings, which feature jazz.

But Sieff sensed that a jazz venue was needed in Fayetteville that was not dependent on commercial business considerations, but purely dedicated to the expression of the musical art form, essentially, a listening room for local and regional jazz artists, a concert situation that encouraged original material and experimentation as well as more traditional jazz.

Last September, Sieff started the monthly Sunday Jazz at Nature’s Water coffeehouse series with music aficionados Moshe and Hamsa Newmark who own Nature’s Water, a water filter business at 275 E. Huntsville Road near downtown Fayetteville.

The first show featured Sieff on drums, Al Gibson on trumpet, Clare Starr on bass and Ben Harris on guitar.

The room seats about 35 people at small tables. Admission is generally $8 and after expenses, all income goes to the performing artists.

Sieff serves as artistic director and handles booking, publicity and organization. Stephens and Jean Pearson, wife of jazz bassist Walter Savage, are regular volunteers. Additional volunteers are needed and receive free admission.

Shows are at 5 p.m. the first Sunday of each month, except on rare occasions to accommodate the schedules of out-of-town acts. For information call 582-2393 or go to

Sunday Jazz at Nature’s Water

Sunday – Andrew Sieff Quartet with Matt and Gus Smith and Clare Starr
July 6 – Garrett Jones Group

5 p.m. Admission $8

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