Teacher of the Arts: Claire Ritter

 Jazz and New American Music composer, pianist and recording artist Claire Ritter is a rare Charlotte native who has studied piano and composition with top figures in the world of contemporary jazz.

 Ritter, 60, worked with Ziggy Hurwitz during her teenage years, and later at Duke University with jazz great Mary Lou Williams.

 She founded Zoning records in 1987, named after an album by her former teacher: Williams has released numerous CD recordings.

 Her latest project, Claire Ritter & Friends, will be released this winter. It’s a DVD of her recent performance at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, where she was joined by Stan Strickland, Dominique Eade and Takaaki Masuko.

Ritter works with 15 to 20 students, all doing improvisation, composition or both.

Evaluating prospective students: I’m most interested in working with students who show potential, aptitude, imagination and rhythm. I find a big correlation between harmony and melodic ideas with students who are good at visualizing the concepts I work with them on.

On seeing students excel: “There is a tremendous amount of joy. I see a piece of me that is invested in the process and the transfer of knowledge that’s been transferred to me. It carries forward and is very satisfying.”

Her influences: To have worked with Ziggy as a young person was fascinating; he was such a colorful character and he was so imaginative. It was a very different level for me and I learned to chart and notate; it was a turning point for me. Working with Mary Lou late in her career was special and inspiring.

Michael J. Solender, correspondent