Damani Phillips

Jazz Studies, Saxophone
Associate Professor
Jazz Studies Area Head

Dr. Damani Phillips is a native of Pontiac, MI, where he began playing at the age of 10.  He currently serves as head of the Jazz Studies area and Associate Professor of African-American Studies at the University of Iowa, where he teaches applied jazz saxophone, directs large/small jazz ensembles, and teaches courses in African-American music, African-American culture, jazz education, and improvisation. He has earned a Bachelor's and Master of Music degrees from DePaul University (Chicago) and The University of Kentucky in classical saxophone; and a second Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies from Wayne State University (Detroit). Phillips completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Jazz Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009, becoming the first African-American in the country to do so. He was named a Yamaha performing artist in 2014.

An active performer, pedagogue, and composer, Phillips has taught and performed throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America. He previously served on the full-time faculty of Grinnell College, the adjunct faculty of Oakland University (Rochester, MI), and Macomb Community College (Macomb, MI), and is actively sought as a guest artist, clinician, lecturer, panelist, and adjudicator throughout the country. As a lecturer, Phillips has presented on a variety of topics on jazz and Black music’s association with American culture at venues such as The African-American Museum of Iowa, the Deutschebank Kunsthalle (Berlin), Yale-NUS, and numerous colleges/universities around the globe. As a performer, Phillips has shared the stage with artists/groups such as Lewis Nash, Christian McBride, Wycliffe Gordon, Bobby McFerrin, Marcus Belgrave, Terrell Stafford, Maceo Parker, Pat Bianchi, Bobby Floyd, The Temptations, Red Holloway, Hank Jones and many others. As a recording artist, Phillips has released 6 albums as a leader: "Yaktown Nights" (2003), “The String Theory” (2010), and “The Reckoning” (featuring New York standouts Pat Bianchi, Greg Gisbert, and Lewis Nash) in 2012, "Duality" (2015) and his first live recording “Live in Iowa” in 2018. Phillips’ most recent album “No More Apologies” featuring a jazz quartet with a string octet was released in November of 2021.

Phillips is also an active academic scholar, with scholarly presentations at colleges, universities, professional/civic conferences, and scholarly forums both domestically and abroad to his credit. His scholarly research focuses on addressing cultural concerns in the pedagogy of Black music within academia. He published his first book titled “What is This Thing Called Soul: Conversations on Jazz and Black Culture” in 2017, which delves into the difficult, yet timely, topic of the decline of Black cultural influence and representation in jazz as traditionally taught in academic spheres.


Research areas
  • Jazz studies
Portrait of Damani Phillips
Contact Information

University of Iowa
4419 Voxman Building (VOX)
93 E. Burlington Street
Iowa City, IA 52240
United States