Producing music for the soul
NEC alum, Siraj Al Hassan ’81, brings a unique musical perspective to the world. Blending different genres of music from Jazz to Classical, Soul to Neo-soul, Latin to Brazilian, and R&B to Hip Hop, Siraj creates music for the soul that honors his family, culture, and the legacy of his teachers.
Major: Jazz Studies
Graduation year and degree: 1981, BM
Current job: Composer, Saxophonist, Flautist, Producer, Educator
Where it began…
Siraj was born and raised in a multi-racial family in the Jamaica, Queens area of New York City—a neighborhood known for its diverse musical environment. The NYC public school system offered a plethora of music programs, and it was there that Siraj developed a passion for a wide range of musical genres at an early age.
While studying at Bronx Community College, Siraj was encouraged by a faculty member to apply to the music program at New England Conservatory. Siraj auditioned for the late, great Ernie Wilkins, the former Chair of the NEC Jazz Department. He was accepted and began pursuing a degree in Jazz Studies at NEC where he studied with Jaki Byard, Joe Allard, and George Russell.
"Jaki [Byard] and his wife, Louise, encouraged me to continue my studies at NEC. The lessons then continued and included wonderful discussions about music, family, and life. Jaki and Louise treated me like family. They were my musical parents. I love them and miss them dearly.”
Siraj is an independent musician who has toured and recorded around the world with some of the greats such as Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Jimmy Scott, Wilson Picket, and Doug E. Fresh, to name a few. After graduation, Siraj was invited to join Mongo Santamaria’s Latin Jazz Orchestra, which is regarded as a major exponent of authentic Afro-Cuban music. He recorded three albums with the “King of the Congas” and contributed to two of his compositions.
Inspired by family, friends, and fans, Siraj started his own production company called Siraj Media Group (SMG) to produce his music as well as better serve the artistic and economic needs of modern, urban musicians.
In 2020 Siraj released his album, Native Tongue, focusing on his eclectic range of genres such as jazz, R&B, Latin, Brazilian, neo-soul, and funk. Native Tongue bridges modern instrumental music culture with the influences of Siraj’s teachers who gave him the courage to take music to new heights.
While at NEC, Siraj was given the opportunity to surround himself with so many serious and diverse musicians from all over the world. The institution holds an important place in his life and within the world of music.
“New England Conservatory brings a wonderful acceptance into the music industry, a feeling very few institutions could achieve. Think of it as a "Stamp of Approval". A legacy, so to speak, of many great alumni passing through its hallowed halls.”