Music Department Series
In 2016-2017 I developed a Music Department Lecture Series, held in the Laurel Forum at UNCA, both to provide a forum for our music department faculty to present their work, and also for the greater UNCA community and the general public to learn a bit more about what we do. I raised funds to endow a yearly keynote lecture, delivered by a cutting-edge scholar chosen by the faculty. In the inaugural year, we invited Will Cheng, author of Just Vibrations and Loving Music till it Hurts. We now rotate responsibility for booking the 6-8 lectures per season. Keynotes have been delivered by Matt Sakakeeny, Jen Iverson, Mark Burford and Gabe Solis.
Early on at UNCA, I devised the idea of a Faculty Showcase Concert series, administered by Dr. Brian Felix and now Dr. Christine Boone, which has become one of our most beloved music department events. I also built out a weekly Jazz Forum that featured a combination of student performances, faculty clinics, and invited guests from the community and further afield. We now also feature a yearly Residency for nationally known jazz and contemporary music artists. Among those we have brought in to enrich our students have been: Tim Green, Walter Smith, Jr. Sara Caswell, Pedrito Martinez, Endless Field, Jamey Aebersold, Mavis Staples, Miles Griffith, Christian Howes, Jay Clayton, Jason Marsalis, Bob Moses, Freddie Bryant, Craig Bailey, Bob Sheppard, Charlie Hunter, Victor and Roy Wooten, Larry Fuller, Jonathan Kreisberg, Dave Douglas, Jon Irabagon, Jonathon Scales, Cory Pesaturo, Deanna Witkowski, Randy Napoleon, and many others.
BFA in Jazz and Contemporary Music
Based on my experience designing and implementing the first Jazz Theory and Improvisation classes at Harvard, and teaching Harmony at Berklee, the music faculty at UNCA entrusted me with designing, clearing and implementing a new BFA in Jazz and Contemporary Music program within our music department, in partnership with Dr. Brian Felix. This involved fundraising, clearing administrative hurdles, identifying and hiring faculty, promoting the program within our community and further afield, and administering programs—like our Summer Jazz and Contemporary Music Intensive (co-directed by adjunct faculty Steve Alford and Tim Doyle), designed to funnel talented students to our program. Since graduating our first BFA major in 2014, we have grown the program to near capacity and have seen students go on to distinguished graduate schools, develop their own performance careers, and carve out unique niches in an evolving music industry. To keep track of these students, maintain a sense of community, and develop a feeling of continuity within the program, I developed a UNCA Jazz and Contemporary Music Alumni Network that gets together for a concert each spring.
UNCA Jazz Nights at Tressa's, the Altamont,
the Isis, the Block off Biltmore, and the Mothlight
When I arrived at UNCA in 2011, we had a big band, and a few jazz ensembles, labeled "Ensemble 1, Ensemble 2, and Ensemble 3." We now have themed ensembles: Thelonious Monk, ECM, Brazilian, Paul Simon, Ecomusic. Experimental Music, Horace Silver, Frank Zappa, Afropop, and many, many others. Our flagship ensemble, the X-Tet, is the touring wing of our increasingly outward-facing program.
While concerts at UNCA are still an important part of what we do, our groups now perform off campus, thanks to partnerships we've secured with Asheville area clubs. Being able to perform in these settings has allowed them to test their academic understandings of music against the demands of real-life scenarios. Getting our talented students out in front of the public has strengthened the reputation of our music department and our university within our community.