Let’s start with important basics first: though Philadelphia saxophonist Hiruy Tirfe will answer to “Henry,” his name is Hiruy (her – OY). “My mother gave me that name,” he once said. “People can learn to pronounce it.” The Upper Darby High School graduate stayed in Philly to attend the University Of The Arts, where he studied with Mark Allen, John Swana and Mike Cemprola and racked up multiple awards. They include the Michael Brecker Saxophone Award, and a two-time Outstanding Soloist at the Next Generation Jazz Festival (2016 & 2017) with the UArts “Z” Big Band. He ultimately earned his Masters from UArtts in 2018.
“Philadelphia means everything to me. I would love to see this city back on the map,” Tirfe said. “My hope for Philadelphia as a jazz city is to bring back the value of our music, musicians, artists and lovers of the arts,” says Tirfe. “Philadelphia as a whole seemed to have its back turned on when it comes to other people giving Philadelphia the credit it deserves when it comes to producing great musicians and artists today. I have personally heard people say myself that ‘Nothing has been happening in Philly since the days of The Roots and Jilly.’ It hurts to hear that, especially being from this great city. It’s time that we value each other so that the world can value us.”
Tirfe is now out in the community playing shows and recording, and he’s set to release his debut album “10,0000 Hours” this year, and his track record proves that he’s really put the time in. Though Tirfe is at the beginning of this career, he’s already worked with a slew of names that most music fans would recognize—The Roots, H.E.R, Solange Knowles, Patti LaBelle, Wycelf Jean, Robin Eubanks, Bilal and many other artists. Even before he graduated, Tirfe began working heavily as an educator and as a professional musician performing at venues such as Radio City Music Hall, the Made In America Festival, the AfroPunk Festival, at the 2017 NFL Draft, at the Monterey Jazz Festival and the John F. Kennedy Center.
Tirfe has also played the NPR “Tiny Desk” Series, but his aspirations are big. “My vision for myself is to become another Christian McBride, Immanuel Wilkins, Questlove, Black Thought—-and put out records, have them sell, and become the face of music today,” says Tirfe. “My ultimate goal is to win a Grammy for best instrumental album/best improvised jazz solo.”
He sees lack of coverage as one obstacle to reaching those goals. “It is hard to get the media to write up events, such as monthly musical events—like Studio Wednesdays At Silk City. Personally, the only time I hear jazz talked about on TV is when Philly Pops big band puts together Christmas performances,” says Tirfe. “Jazz music in Philadelphia happens way more than once a month and I hope the media realizes that soon.”
“Jazz music in Philadelphia happens way more than once a month and I hope the media realizes that soon.”
As an part of the inaugural cohort of Jazz Philadelphia’s CORE Cooperative, Tirfe says he wants to learn more about how to move in the world as an independent artist, to understand where to find grant money, and to live in split roles “I don’t know how to act like a manager and a performing artist at the same time,” he says. “I feel as though with the CORE Cooperative program I can finally fill in the gaps and really get myself moving as an artist in terms of putting out records, distributing them, selling them, touring the record, etc.”
“I feel as though with the CORE Cooperative program I can finally fill in the gaps and really get myself moving as an artist in terms of putting out records, distributing them, selling them, touring the record, etc.”
He’s banking suite of traits that have helped him so far, including being a good communicator, which includes being a good listener, and he “sticking to my word.” He places a high degree of emphasis on being prompt, exhibiting discipline and being strict, and keeping a good attitude.
He’ll continue to put in that 10,000 hours, and when things get tough he says he’ll “think about the big picture, and continue to have the end in mind.”
You can connect with him on hiruytirfe.org
Jazz Philadelphia is proud to have Hiruy Tirfe in the inaugural cohort of the CORE Cooperative, an entrepreneurship, leadership, and wellness program for jazz artists and advocates. For more information, visit Jazz Philadelphia.
“My hope for Philadelphia as a jazz city is to bring back the value of our music, musicians, artists and lovers of the arts.”