Dean Earl: pianist, arranger, educator

Everett G. “Dean” Earl: born Apr. 10, 1910 in Brooklyn, NY; died Jan. 16, 2002 in Boston

    Everett G. “Dean” Earl was born in Brooklyn and began playing piano as a boy. By his own admission he had limited training and could only play the black keys, but years of playing rent parties and dances schooled him in the popular music of the period. Touring with a vaudeville act in the late 1930s furthered his education, which was continued during a stint with an Army Air Corps service band during World War II.

    After his service he moved to Boston, having developed his technique and reading ability to the point where he was frequently called on to back visiting soloists at the Hi-Hat and other clubs, during which time he was given his nickname. Location recordings exist of him playing with Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt. He also worked with Ben Webster, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and many others.

    In 1953 Earl enrolled at Schillinger House (soon to be known as the Berklee College of Music) and began a comprehensive study of theory. By the time he graduated in 1956 he had become one of Boston’s busiest musicians with numerous regular jobs in addition to his work backing guest artists.

    Although his performance career was notable, it was as a teacher that Earl had his greatest influence. In 1961 he joined the faculty at Berklee and taught there until shortly before his death in 2002. Over those four decades many of his hundreds of students went on to successful careers as musicians and have given him credit for his methods and friendly, supportive teaching manner.

    –John Clark

Dean Earl

Dean Earl (photo courtesy of Berklee College of Music)