For the previous eight years of Partner in Excellence Award Dinners, Jeff Lesser would have been the trumpet player in the lobby performing with the Admin Quartet. His love of music and the arts in general led him to a thirty-five year career in the public schools, having served the students of New Jersey as a music teacher and high school Band Director, Department Chair, and Supervisor in two school districts. He retired in July of 2015 as East Brunswick’s Supervisor of Arts Education.
Jeff began playing the trumpet and took an interest in music theory and arranging during high school. He studied music education at Trenton State College, and became a music composition student. These studies eventually led to a premiere of his first symphony. In 1977, he pursued his Master of Music in Music Composition at Temple University and received his degree in 1979. While beginning his pursuit of a doctoral degree, he took his first job as an assistant band director for East Windsor Regional Schools. Once in front of a band, he loved the “esprit du corps” and the process of music education.
In 1985, Jeff took the position of Director of Bands for John F. Kennedy High School in Willingboro (his high school alma mater), and later moved to Willingboro High School. During his 22 year tenure, Jeff lead a 150 member high school marching band and 120 member concert band program through a variety of classic and contemporary compositions. The success of the Jazz Bands was notable, being named a New Jersey State Finalist in all but one year of his twenty two years, and taking his bands to the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival (the largest one day high school jazz festival in the world). Here the band would be a twelve-time finalist, with six first places achieved. Jeff was named the New Jersey Jazz Educator of the year in 1997 and received the Burlington County NAACP Distinguished Service Award in 2000.
In 2007, Jeff came to East Brunswick with a vision of empowering his staff for excellence. With the support of administration and the EBEF, he initiated the Arts Education Concert Series, with professional and world-class performers engaging our students and the community through workshops and concerts in our EBPAC. Some of these groups have included the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, New York Voices, the Shanghai String Quartet, and the United States Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants.
Under his leadership, all eleven schools were identified in the top 10% of the New Jersey Arts Education census, and East Brunswick High School was named a New Jersey Model School for the Arts. Program offerings were expanded and enrollment in the arts grew. During the first year of the census, EBHS arts enrollment topped 81%, while the state average stood at less than 48%.
Now an adjunct professor at Rowan College of Burlington County, Jeff resides in Delran with his wife Ilene and their dog “Maestro”. Their five children, Danielle, Aimee, Dan, Melissa, and Andrew have all met with great success, with Aimee a member of the Chittick faculty and Andrew completing his degree in Music Education.