Three-time Emmy-nominated composer/pianist Steve Sandberg plays original music that masterfully blends classical, global music traditions, and jazz with the excitement of virtuosic improvisation.

Steve was lead composer and musical director for Nickelodeon’s landmark children’s programs “Dora the Explorer” and “Go, Diego, Go!” His scoring and songwriting are informed by a lifetime of immersion in the music of many cultures.

He began playing the piano at the age of four (and is a current student of the legendary pianist and teacher Seymour Bernstein). While studying music at Yale, and African Art History with Robert Farris Thompson, he heard Felipe Luciano’s Latin Roots radio program, and it changed his life. Deeply drawn to these rhythms, Steve moved back to New York after graduating to immerse himself in the world of jazz and Afro-Caribbean music. His mentor was multi-instrumentalist Mario Rivera, a member of the Dizzie Gillespie, Tito Puente, and George Coleman ensembles. Steve was pianist, composer and arranger for Rivera’s “Salsa Refugee” group, and also performed with Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, and Ruben Blades. A highlight of this period was an appearance in Rio and São Paolo in a duo with vocalist Bebel Gilberto.

Steve has toured with David Byrne (“Rei Momo”) as keyboardist and vocalist, and was musical director for Lincoln Center’s summer Brazilfest series.  He has conducted and arranged for Broadway (Chronicle of a Death Foretold) and for many regional and off-Broadway theatres, including the New York Shakespeare Festival.

In 2017, Steve founded the Steve Sandberg Quartet, featuring the violinist Zach Brock (critically acclaimed as “the pre-eminent improvising violinist of his generation”), bassist Michael O’Brien, and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli. Their first CD, “Alaya,” was released on ArtistShare. Dan Bilawsky of All About Jazz called this CD “… a breathtaking composite of world music, jazz, and classical expressions … personal and precise in its direction, yet universal in its language and ability to connect.” The quartet has performed at Birdland, the DiMenna Center, Sidedoor Jazz, the Allentown Symphony Jazz Upstairs series and many other venues.

Throughout the pandemic, Steve stayed active, livestreaming regularly from Brooklyn’s Soapbox Gallery, in collaboration with many New York musicians including Zach Brock, Rudy Royston, Boris Koslov, Ed Cherry, Vitor Goncalves, Jay Hoggard, Jay Rodriguez, and Vinicius Gomes. 

In August of 2021, Steve and Zach performed a duo concert at New York’s Bargemusic series and in October, 2022, gave a series of concerts and taught several masterclasses in Egypt, sponsored by the American University of Cairo and the U.S. Embassy.

Recently, Steve played at the Yale Jazz Festival with his trio, where he was the guest at a Masters Tea and was interviewed on his musical career. Recent performances also include his Brazilian Project at Jazzforum in Tarrytown and regular trio concerts at the Deerhead Inn, the oldest jazz club in North America.

Steve maintains an active teaching studio in NYC, where he teaches students of all ages and levels, in person and online. He has also presented masterclasses on Improvisation for Classically Trained Musicians via the Global Music Foundation and at the New School.

In 2019, Steve was commissioned by Kelly Hall-Tompkins’ Music Kitchen project, which presents classical music at New York City homeless shelters, to write an original song for tenor and string quartet. The song, setting lyrics by former Music Kitchen clients to music, was at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall in April, 2022.