Skillicorn Receives Presser Award

The Jazz Studies faculty and staff are very proud that Alexa Torres Skillicorn, current MM jazz violin student, has been honored with The Presser Foundation's 2021 Graduate Music Award via the College's leadership.

Her proposal is Ethnography of Practice: Oral History for the Development of Embodied Jazz Violin Praxis. "The [Presser Foundation's graduate granting] program is designed to encourage and support, in a special way, the advanced education and career of truly exceptional graduate music students who have the potential to make a distinguished contribution to the field of music." A listing of recent UNT College of Music recipients of this award is found here.

Image: Alexa Torres Skillicorn
Image: Alexa Torres Skillicorn

Alexa's performance and research abilities demonstrated in recent years have been among the premier highlights of our burgeoning Jazz Strings program and the division at large. We cannot wait to see the results of this ethnography and for Skillicorn's continued impact in jazz education!

Seven winners in the 2021 DownBeat Student Music Awards!

2021 DownBeat Magazine Student Music Award winners!

The Division of Jazz Studies is pleased to announce that the division is represented by seven winners in this year's annual awards presented by the premier jazz publication.

Image: 2021 UNT DownBeat SMA winners announcement

Image: 2021 UNT DownBeat SMA winners announcement

Jazz Soloist
Eric Hitt (MM'19, current DMA), Upright Bass

Vocal Jazz Soloist
Katelyn Robinson

Small Vocal Jazz Group
West End • Rachel Azbell, Director

Large Vocal Jazz Ensemble
UNT Jazz Singers • Jennifer Barnes, Director

Jazz Arrangement
Kara Walton (BM'20), “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful”

Jazz Arrangement, Small Ensemble
Jackson Churchill, “Silent Way”

Jazz Arrangement, Big Band
Simeon Nathanael Davis (BM'20, current MM), “Herbs and Roots”

The full list of winners can be found through DownBeat's online edition of the June 2021 magazine. It is always great to see so many alumni represented as well.

Congratulations to all of this year's winners, their collaborative peers, and mentor faculty!

Prof. Tixier profiled in D Magazine

UNT Assistant Professor for Jazz Strings Scott Tixier was recently profiled by Alex Temblador in the April edition of D Magazine , one of the region's premier cultural publications. In the feature, Prof. Tixier described his winding route to Denton by way of New York and Parisian conservatories. He reflects on his opportunities to continue recording during the pandemic as well as his relationship to jazz music as a Black man and French immigrant.

Image: Scott Tixier at Modern Electric Sound Recorders studio in Dallas. Credit: Elizabeth Lavin

Image: Scott Tixier at Modern Electric Sound Recorders studio in Dallas. Credit: Elizabeth Lavin

In speaking about his recent livestreamed performance at Dallas' Moody Hall as part of the Chamber Music International Festival, Prof. Tixier expressed his joy at performing even in these strange times:

“Moody Hall was incredibly necessary for my soul,” he says. “I didn’t realize how much I needed it. The energy from being onstage again defined the momentum in my life. More than 1,000 people have tuned in so far, and even if I couldn’t see them, I somehow could feel them. Playing in this empty hall was dramatic and grave but also joyful, electric, and exhilarating."

Welcome Kimberly Hannon Teal to UNT!

The division of Jazz Studies is proud to announce that Kimberly Hannon Teal begins her tenure at UNT in August of 2021 as Assistant Professor of Jazz History and Research. Her research addresses contemporary jazz and she is interested in how live performance contexts contribute to musical experiences and meaning. She holds a PhD in historical musicology from the Eastman School of Music, where she also taught music history and served as the Director of Graduate Advising. Her writing can be found in American Music, Jazz Perspectives, The Journal of the Society for American Music, and Jazz Research Journal. She comes to UNT from the University of Arkansas.

Three Mean Green among 2021 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Award recipients

Image (NewMusicBox): The 2021 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award recipients

Image (NewMusicBox): the 2021 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award recipients

Three members of the North Texas Jazz family are among the recipients of the ASCAP Foundation's 2021 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award. Via NewMusicBox:

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the 20 recipients of the 2021 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards plus an additional 6 composers who received honorable mention. Established in 2002, the program recognizes gifted young jazz composers up to the age of 30. Through a partnership with the Newport Festival Foundation, one of this year’s Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards recipients will be featured at the Newport Jazz Festival, conditions permitting. The awards carry the name of the trumpeter, composer and bandleader Herb Alpert in recognition of The Herb Alpert Foundation’s multi-year financial commitment to the program. Additional funding for the program is provided by The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund. The recipients, who receive cash awards, are selected through a juried national competition. The ASCAP composer/judges for the 2021 competition were Ambrose Akinmusire, Wycliffe Gordon and Jihye Lee.

Image: Ariel Sha Glassman

Image: Ariel Sha Glassman

Ariel Sha Glassman, current MM composition and arranging student and director of the Five O'Clock Lab Band, won for her big band chart "Captain Iso".

Image: Yu Nishiyama

Image: Yu Nishiyama

Yu Nishiyama (BM'17) won for her piece "Honorary Whites" for 17-piece big band.

Image: Courtney Wright

Image: Courtney Wright

Courtney Wright, former MM composition and arranging student and director of the Seven O'Clock Lab Band, won for her big band chart "Like Thad".

We are extremely proud of each of these amazing writers!

Saxophonists win at NASA 2021 regional competitions

Current UNT saxophonists Gus Arnold (BM'19) and Ian Weidmann have come in first and second place respectively in the 2021 Region IV Jazz Saxophone competition of the North American Saxophone Alliance.

Gus Arnold and Ian Weidmann both also hold the lead alto saxophone chairs in the One and Two O'Clock Lab Bands respectively, as well.


Gus Arnold and Ian Weidmann in performance

Image: Gus Arnold and Ian Weidmann in performance

U-Tubes win 2021 ITA Competition

Image: ITA announcement on Facebook.

The U-Tubes Jazz Trombone Ensemble has won the 2021 Kai Winding Jazz Trombone Ensemble Competition from the International Trombone Association (ITA). The ensemble, under the direction of graduate teaching assistant Jack Courtright and sponsored by Prof. Nick Finzer, is comprised of an octet of tenor and bass trombonists with a rhythm section.

The U-Tubes Jazz Trombone Ensemble performing in Lab West

Image: The U-Tubes performing a concert in Lab West on March 2, 2021.

Other UNT wins from this year's competition are:

  • University of North Texas Trombone Consortium, Steve Menard and Natalie Mannix, directors
    Emory Remington Trombone Choir Competition

  • Jack Courtright, finalist; Jackson Churchill, first alternate
    JJ Johnson Jazz Trombone Competition (ages 25 and under)

  • Theodore Van Winkle, honorable mention
    Robert Marsteller Tenor Trombone Competition (ages 22 and under)

  • Jackson Churchill, second alternate
    Carl Fontana Jazz Trombone Competition (ages 22 and under)

Alum Sturino added to Yamaha Artists Roster

John Sturino modeling a Yamaha tom drum

Image: John Sturino modeling a Yamaha tom drum.

From Yamaha–

BUENA PARK, Calif. (January 12, 2021) — Yamaha Drums today announced the signing of New York-based drummer, arranger, composer and educator John Sturino (BM'16, MM'19) to the roster of Yamaha Artists.
"John's versatility as a drummer makes him the perfect addition to the family of Yamaha drum artists," said Greg Crane, manager of Artist Relations, drums, Yamaha Corporation of America. "We look forward to supporting his skills as a composer and arranger, as well as his efforts as an educator and his premier musicianship on the stage."

Sturino is a dynamic and versatile performer on multiple instruments, having performed the music of Frank Zappa with Zappa alumnus Arthur Barrow and touring internationally with the One O'Clock Lab Band.

As a committed supporter of music education, Sturino maintains a regular schedule as an educator as faculty of the Stanford Jazz Worship and most recently, as a fellow at the University of North Texas. Sturino also co-founded the Kenosha Jazz All-Stars—an annual summer youth program that brings jazz education and performance experience to middle and high school students—and currently teaches virtual private lessons from his studio in Brooklyn.

In addition to teaching, Sturino is a budding jazz composer and arranger for notable professional and student-level jazz ensembles. This year, Sturino was awarded a Commission Grant for a new large ensemble work from the International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers, debuting at the organization's 2022 symposium.

Joshua Jennings wins National YoungArts award

First-year undergraduate jazz trumpet performance student Joshua Jennings has won a spot amongst the 2021 National YoungArts Foundation Merit winners.

Image: Joshua Jennings playing a jam session on a New York City street corner.

From NYAF–

YoungArts' winners are the nation’s most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts. Selected from a competitive pool of applications and representing artists from across the country, YoungArts winners gain access to one of the most comprehensive programs for emerging artists in the United States, offering financial, professional and artistic development opportunities over the course of their careers.

Winners are chosen for their caliber of artistic achievement by esteemed discipline-specific panels of artists through a rigorous blind adjudication process and are awarded in three categories: Finalist, Honorable Mention and Merit. This year, YoungArts award winners at all levels receive cash prizes between $100 and $10,000.

Finalists have the opportunity to participate in National YoungArts Week in January. All award winners join a 20,000-strong alumni community, made up of a rich network of peers, and are provided support and opportunities throughout their artistic careers.

Congratulations to Joshua!

Black Lives Matter

The faculty and staff of the Division of Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas stands in solidarity with the Black community during what has been an extremely sad and eye-opening past two weeks. We are indebted to the musical legacy of Black American culture that has provided much of the foundation of our livelihoods, studies, and passions. All of us have studied the improvisational and compositional creativity of Black jazz artists and their extended musical communities throughout our careers. We view ourselves as grateful participants in the tradition they established.

The history of our art form in jazz is intricately interwoven with social protest and that aspect does not change now. We are appalled and saddened by George Floyd’s death as we are with each needless loss before and since brought on by the institutional violence, inequitable policies, and police brutality exhibited towards Black Americans. We are musicians, but we are human beings first and recognize that no person should be treated the way George Floyd was, among countless others. This is another instance in a series of blatant wake up calls to ALL Americans that we need to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again. Though the scale of needed societal change is grand, adjusting our individual and institutional actions can have a lasting impact on these issues in our surrounding community. 

We recognize that the Division’s history has not always adequately reflected the values of diversity and inclusion.  The program was founded in the academic year of 1946-47 on a still-segregated campus. It would be many years before full integration took place both within the university and in our program. Despite our best efforts, echoes and residual effects of this founding context still occur.

To overcome our shortcomings, we must listen: to our students, to our community, and each other.  As musicians and as people, we listen in order to understand where our musical partner is rooted and respond to them in kind. As we improvise, we must respect and include all voices, taking explicit care to elevate the marginalized. We recognize and celebrate our students, faculty, staff, and broader community members for who they are – their whole person.

The mission of the UNT College of Music is “to serve our diverse musical culture with excellence, integrity, and imagination.” Reaffirming that Black Lives Matter supports all three aspects of this mission, as we affirm the value of diversity, strive to meet the highest standard of integrity, and imagine a better future. We are resolute in our commitment to this mission and look forward to working more purposefully towards a more diverse and inclusive culture in the Division of Jazz Studies at UNT.