Fred Sturm

Tag: Fred Sturm

Lawrence University Presents 38th Annual Jazz Weekend

Lawrence University will present the 38th annual Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend with live performances from the Regina Carter Quartet on Friday, November 2 and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra on Saturday, November 3. Both concerts will take place at 7:30 pm in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Tickets are free for all students with a valid student ID, and range from $20 – $30 for seniors and adults. Tickets are available for purchase from the Lawrence University Box Office in person, online or by calling 920-832-6749.

Headshot of Regina Carter
Jazz Violinist Regina Carter

Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend brings professional jazz artists to the Lawrence campus for a non-competitive jazz education festival. Over the course of the weekend hundreds of middle and high school students from around the Midwest work with Lawrence faculty and jazz educators from across the country. The weekend culminates in the Friday and Saturday evening concerts given by internationally acclaimed jazz musicians.

The concert on Friday, November 2 will feature Regina Carter, a Sony Masterworks recording artist and the foremost jazz violinist of her generation. Her quest for beauty combined with her passion for excellence did not escape the attention of the MacArthur Foundation, who awarded Regina their prestigious fellowship “genius grant.” Carter’s recent release, Ella: Accentuate the Positive and touring program, Simply Ella, mark the 100th birthday of musical legend Ella Fitzgerald. Carter will perform Simply Ella live at Lawrence with her quartet.

Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

The concert on Saturday, November 3 showcases the multiple-Grammy winning 16 piece Vanguard Jazz Orchestra which features some of the world’s finest musicians. Co-founded by legendary trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis, after more than 50 years the ensemble still plays virtually every Monday night at the renowned Village Vanguard Jazz club, New York City’s most famous basement. The beautiful and unique arrangements of Thad Jones enchanted audiences worldwide. The mixture of the music from diverse backgrounds created their innovative sound and the band was quickly recognized as a world-class big band. The ensemble cultivated its rich history while commissioning new music that made them the prototype of innovative big band music.

For more information about these events or the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend, contact Jillian Johnson at 920-832-6773

Lizz Wright, Storms/Nocturnes headline Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Lizz Wright and the immersive trio Storms/Nocturnes headline Lawrence University’s 37th annual salute to all things jazz.

Lizz Wright outdoors leaning on a fence
Singer Lizz Wright opens this year’s Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend with a performance Friday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. (Photo by Jesse Kitt.)

Wright opens the two-concert weekend Friday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. while Storms/Nocturnes shares the stage with Lawrence’s own 18-member jazz ensemble Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. to close the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. Both concerts are in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

Tickets, at $30/$25 for adults, $25/$20 for seniors and $20/$18 for students are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Wright, who NPR describes as “a sophisticated straddler of down-home blues, jazz, gospel, folk, southern pop and confessional singer-songwriter traditions,” will feature her latest studio album “Grace,” which was released in September. The album is an unadulterated reflection of Wright’s sense of place and belonging that’s deeply woven into the cultural fabric of America.

An invitation to openly contemplate our humanity, “Grace” is Wright’s proclamation to unearth our fundamental kindness and generosity. She uses it as vocal rite of passage, tracing the landscape between her native central and south Georgia and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, N.C., where she currently makes her home.

“Grace” showcases the warm and weathered colors of Wright’s voice. Leaning into curated classics and contemporary covers, she pierces form with gentle and unfettered individuality.Album cover for Lizz Wright's "Grace"

“Lizz Wright is one of the most captivating vocalists in the jazz world today” said Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble and instructor of music. “With her powerful voice, she blends elements of gospel, blues, jazz, folk and pop music to create songs that inspire and connect her audiences.”

Storms/Nocturnes, a trio of international jazz giants — British saxophone legend Tim Garland, world-leading vibraphone virtuoso Joe Locke and Grammy Award-nominee pianist Geoffrey Keezer — create a unique three-way dialogue of captivating, immersive music. Melding their distinct styles and backgrounds, they create music that can be spacious or immensely complex, delicate but almost orchestral in depth. They collectively find their way into a new mood or feel before the listener realizes they have left the old one.

“Lizz Wright is one of the most captivating vocalists in the jazz world today.”
— Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble

Garland was voted “Musician of the Year” in 2006 by the Cross-Parliamentary Jazz Society. He has received commissions from the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Westminster Abbey Choir, as well as numerous small and large jazz-based ensembles.

He earned a 2009 Grammy Award for helping create “The New Crystal Silence,” which celebrated the long partnership between jazz legends Chick Corea and Gary Burton.

Locke, a vibraphonist renowned for stunning physical power and broad emotional range, has topped music polls and won multiple awards, including Earshot Golden Ear Awards for “Concert of the Year” and 2016 “Mallet Player of the Year” from the Jazz Journalists Association.

Jazz trio Storms/Nocturnes
Storms/Nocturnes — pianist Geoffrey Keezer, saxophonist Tim Garland and vibraphonist Tim Locke — perform Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 as part of Fred Sturm Jezz Celebration Weekend. They’ll be joined by the Lawrence University Jezz Ensemble.

London’s Royal Academy of Music appointed Locke Visiting International Vibraphone Consultant in 2008 and last year he was honored by his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., with induction into the city’s Music Hall of Fame.

Keezer, an Eau Claire native and two-time Grammy Award nominee, began playing jazz clubs as a teenager and was touring the country in his 20s with such jazz luminaries as Joshua Redman and Benny Golson.

They are incredible performers and composers who are so tight in their bonds with each other. Their musical energy, passion and communication must be experienced.”
— Patty Darling on Storms/Nocturnes

His intellectually abstract lyricism woven over exotically complex rhythms and harmonies makes him one of the most sought-after artists on the modern jazz scene.

Keezer has performed on projects ranging from solo to duo to quartet, from bandleader to big band, from post-bop jazz to electronica to global fusion. His 2009 CD “Áurea” earned a Best Latin Jazz album Grammy nomination. He teamed with Garland and Locke on the album “Via” in 2011 while he released his latest solo piano disk, “Heart of the Piano” in 2013.

Darling is excited about having LUJE join the talented trio on stage.

“They are incredible performers and composers who are so tight in their bonds with each other,” said Darling. “Their musical energy, passion and communication must be experienced. It will be a huge thrill for our students to perform with them.”

In addition to the two evening concerts, Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend features a series of free performances and clinics by Lawrence combos, big bands, jazz faculty and high school bands, with more than 700 high school and middle school students participating throughout the day on Saturday. A complete schedule can be found here.

Lawrence’s annual Jazz Celebration Weekend was renamed two years ago in honor of long-time music professor Fred Sturm, its founder and mentor who passed away in 2014.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Maestro Fred Sturm: Lawrence Mourns the Death of its Long-Time Jazz Director

Lawrence University Kimberly-Clark Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies and Improvisational Music Fred Sturm died peacefully at his home in De Pere Sunday, Aug. 24 following a long and courageous battle with cancer. He was 63.

Fred Sturm ’73 not only helped launch the jazz studies program at Lawrence, he served as its director for 26 years.

An award-winning composer, nationally recognized jazz educator and beloved mentor to hundreds, if not thousands, of aspiring musicians, Sturm graduated from Lawrence in 1973. He returned to his alma mater four years later and spent 26 years as a member of the conservatory of music faculty spanning two different teaching stints (1977-91; 2002-14). In between, he taught at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where he was the chair of the jazz studies and contemporary media department.

Sturm, who wrote his first jazz arrangement as a senior at Oconomowoc High School in 1969, was instrumental in creating Lawrence’s jazz studies program in the early 1970s while still a student.  As a 19-year-old sophomore, Sturm formed the Lawrence conservatory of music’s first-ever jazz ensemble, which in turn became a catalyst for the creation of the jazz studies department.

During his 37-year teaching career, the student jazz ensembles Sturm directed were recognized with nine Downbeat awards, widely considered among the highest music honors in the field of jazz education.

Sturm himself was recognized by Downbeat magazine with its 2010 Jazz Education Achievement Award as part of its annual Student Music Awards. The award honors jazz educators who have made significant contributions toward the development of future jazz artists and positively impacted their school’s jazz programs through their commitment to jazz education. Downbeat editor Ed Enright hailed Sturm as “the perfect example of a teacher who goes the extra mile” for his students and ensembles. “Fred’s influence can be seen and heard throughout the jazz education community.”

“Fred was a consummate artist, master educator, visionary, mentor, life-changer, jester, compassionate friend. He positively impacted the lives of all who knew him.”
                   — Brian Pertl ’86, dean of the Lawrence conservatory of music

Renowned for his enthusiastic, generous spirit, infectious passion for all things music and great sense of humor, Sturm devoted his life to helping music students hone their skills, traveling far and near to lead clinics or serve as composer-in-residence for school and university music programs. He also was a founding member of the jazz nonet Matrix.

Sturm was the driving force behind the creation of Jazz Weekend in 1980, a two-day celebration each November that brought professional jazz artists and leading jazz educators to the Lawrence campus for a 100 percent non-competitive jazz education festival. Sturm designed the program to serve as an inspirational jump-start for hundreds of high school students and jazz groups, promoting improvisation as a primary focus. During its 33-year history, the festival brought many of jazz’s biggest names to campus, including Bobby McFerrin, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Diane Schuur, Wayne Shorter, Diana Krall, Branford Marsalis and Kurt Elling, among others.

“Fred was a consummate artist, master educator, visionary, mentor, life-changer, jester, compassionate friend,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and a 1986 Lawrence graduate. “He positively impacted the lives of all who knew him. I am who I am because of him. I do what I do because of him. His influences on me are too numerous to count and too deep to fathom. He saw potential where others saw nothing. He steadfastly held to that vision even as I doubted. Over a 30-year arc, he never let me give up on what he knew I could be. My story is just one of thousands.”

Jazz ensembles conducted by Fred Sturm won nine Downbeat awards for outstanding performance during his 37-year teaching career at Lawrence and Eastman School of Music.

Sturm’s long list of honors and awards include a 1997 Grammy Award nomination, the 2003 ASCAP/IAJE Commission In Honor of Quincy Jones, a prize granted annually to one established jazz composer of international prominence and Lawrence’s own Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2005. Additionally, he was the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the Howard Hanson Institute for American Music, among others.

During his career, he served as guest conductor/composer/arranger for professional jazz ensembles and radio orchestras in Germany, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Scotland and Norway.

Among his many ambitious projects was the 2010 Radiohead Jazz Project, which featured special arrangements of select Radiohead songs. Sturm coordinated the writers, developed project funding and produced the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble studio recordings with engineer Larry Darling. The internationally renowned HR Big Band of Frankfurt performed the Radiohead Project in 2011 in Germany and numerous American universities and high schools have subsequently showcased the RJP repertoire in concert.

Another project of which he was especially fond was “Migrations: One World, Many Musics,” a concert suite inspired by indigenous music from 21 countries. It was premiered by vocalist Bobby McFerrin and the NDR Big Band in Germany in 2007 and toured Europe the following summer.

A native of suburban Chicago, Sturm’s love of baseball, especially the Cubs, was second only to his love of music. Both were intrinsically intertwined throughout his life. Of all of his musical endeavors, none was closer to his heart than the Baseball Music Project, a tour de force that was part symphony concert, part musical American history lesson and part traveling exhibition. The project was inspired in large part by a baseball-themed composition he wrote in 1994 entitled “A Place Where it Would Always Be Spring.” An updated version of that work — “Forever Spring” — served as the centerpiece of the touring Baseball Music Project, which has been performed regularly since 2005 by American orchestras around the country under the auspices of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

(To read more about Fred’s involvement with the Baseball Music Project, download a copy of the summer issue of Lawrence magazine and go to page 24, “Putting the Bat in Baton.”)

After earning a bachelor of music degree in music education from Lawrence, Sturm studied at North Texas State University and the Eastman School of Music.

He is survived by his wife, Susan, De Pere, and two children, Ike, Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., and Madeline, New York, N.Y.

A private memorial service will be held this week at Bjorklunden. A memorial celebrating Sturm’s life will be held at Lawrence on a date to be determined.

Feel free to share your favorite memories of Fred.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Jazz Celebration Weekend Welcomes Kurt Elling Quartet, Maria Schneider Orchestra

It’s encore time for two multi-award winning artists making return appearances at Lawrence University for the college’s 32nd annual Jazz Celebration Weekend.

The Grammy Award-winning Kurt Elling Quartet opens the two-concert weekend Friday, Nov.  2 with the world-renowned Maria Schneider Orchestra closing the weekend Saturday, Nov. 3. Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

Tickets, at $22-20 for adults, $19-17 for seniors and $17-15 for students, are available through the Lawrence Box Office in the Music-Drama Center, 920-832-6749.

13-Time Male Vocalist of the Year Winner

Kurt Elling

No less an authority than the New York Times has hailed Elling as “the standout male vocalist of our time.” He will combine his vocal virtuosity with the talents of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble. In addition to a 2009 Grammy Award for his “Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings The Music Of Coltrane And Hartman” CD, Elling has won the DownBeat Critics Poll “Male Vocalist of the Year” Award an unprecedented 13 years in a row (2000-2012). He holds the distinction of having each of his first nine albums earn a Grammy Award nomination.

This will be Elling’s second Jazz Celebration Weekend appearance, having first performed here in 2003.

“I’m thrilled that one of my vocal jazz heroes will be making another visit to Lawrence,” said Phillip Swan, associate professor of music and co-director of choral studies at Lawrence. “Kurt’s improvisational skill and musical creativity continues to draw me to his recordings and live performances. I’m really looking forward to hearing him collaborate with the LU Jazz Ensemble.  The combination of those two forces will create a memorable musical experience.”

Elling’s latest release, 2012’s “1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project,” pays tribute to the New York workplace where dozens of composers and lyricists generated some of America’s most popular music over the course of four decades.

His prolific career includes collaborations with diverse artists ranging from Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy, seven-time Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Al Jarreau and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan. He has written multi-disciplinary works for The Steppenwolf Theatre and the City of Chicago and was the featured performer at the Obama administration’s first state dinner.

Maria Schneider

Composer and conductor Maria Schneider’s ascent to international jazz acclaim began shortly after forming her 17-member orchestra in 1993. A weekly performer at Visiones in Greenwich Village early on, the orchestra has since become a staple at concert venues around the world, earning 2005’s “Large Jazz Ensemble of the Year” award from the Jazz Journalists Association.

The 21st Century’s Premier Composer for Large Jazz Ensemble

Schneider, who closed out Lawrence’s 2006-07 Jazz Series with a June concert, scored an awards trifecta in 2005 for “Concert in the Garden,” earning  composer of the year, arranger of the year and best jazz recording honors from the DownBeat Magazine Critics Poll and the Jazz Journalist Association.

An unabashed fan, Fred Sturm, Lawrence’s own award-winning composer and conductor who collaborated with Schneider in the creation of “Maria Schneider: Evanescence,” a 1995 Universal Edition text featuring her original scores, calls Schneider, “the premier composer of music for the large jazz ensemble in the 21st century, and her Jazz Orchestra is among the finest big bands in the world today.”

“Maria’s original works contain the most artistic renderings of melody, harmony, orchestration, and structure created by composers in all jazz-related genres over the past decade,” said Sturm, director of jazz studies and improvisation music at Lawrence and founder of Jazz Celebration Weekend. “Her scores and recordings have dramatically impacted the evolution of the jazz composition art form worldwide.”

Schneider’s extensive list of compositions includes commissions by the Danish Radio Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra, Stuttgart Jazz Orchestra, Orchestre National de Jazz, Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, Monterey Jazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.

In addition to the two headline concerts, Lawrence will host more than 30 university, high school and middle school ensembles on Saturday that will participate in daytime performances, educational clinics and master classes with some of the finest jazz educators from across the country. All Saturday daytime events are free and open to the public.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,450 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

New York City’s Vanguard Jazz Orchestra Brings Big-Band Swing to Lawrence Memorial Chapel

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, hailed as “one of New York’s institutions” by the New York Times, brings its big-band swing to the Lawrence Memorial Chapel Friday, May 6 at 8 p.m. in the final concert of the 2010-11 Lawrence University Jazz Series.

Tickets, at $22-20 for adults, $19-17 for seniors, and $17-15 for students, are available through the Lawrence Box Office in the Music-Drama Center, 420 E. College Ave., Appleton or by calling 920-832-6749.

Featuring 16 of the world’s finest jazz musicians, the two-time Grammy Award-winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra traces its roots to 1966 when cornetist/composer/arranger Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis founded a band in New York. Among its first bookings was a trio of Monday night gigs at the world-famous New York City jazz club the Village Vanguard.

“When Thad Jones and Mel Lewis launched their jazz orchestra, they elevated the jazz big band to a new artistic level,” said Fred Sturm, director of jazz studies and improvisational music at Lawrence. “Thad’s playing and writing was an extension of the Count Basie swing tradition. Mel supplied the progressive West Coast style of the Stan Kenton band. The sidemen they hired brought the influences of playing with Basie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and Gerry Mulligan. The result was a remarkable funneling of the world’s premier jazz talents into an iconic large jazz ensemble.

“A decade later when Jones left, Lewis enlisted trombonist/composer Bob Brookmeyer as musical director and the band’s music became more adventurous,” Sturm added. “When Mel died in 1990, ensemble members Jim McNeely, Dick Oatts, John Mosca and other cutting-edge players stepped up to carry the torch as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Today, almost a half century since its inception, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra stands as one of the world’s premier jazz ensembles.”

The VJO’S 2008 recording “Monday Night at The Village Vanguard” won a Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble and earned Brookmeyer a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Arrangement for his work on “St. Louis Blues.” The VJO earned its first Grammy Award in 2004 for “The Way—Music of Slide Hampton” in the Best Arrangements for Jazz Orchestra category. Their 2005 recording “Up from the Skies,” featuring the music of McNeely, the ensemble’s pianist, composer and arranger, earned two Grammy nominations, including one for Best Jazz Ensemble.

Today, the orchestra carries on the tradition established by Jones and Lewis by performing regularly at the Village Vanguard jazz club in Greenwich Village.

DownBeat Magazine Honors Lawrence Saxophone Quartet, Composer Garth Neustadter ’10

The short history of the current iteration of the Lawrence University Saxophone Quartet could be told in one word: successful.

When four Lawrence University saxophone students decided in the spring of 2010 to combine their talents to perform interesting music at a very high level, they had no idea just how rewarding that decision would prove to be.

The latest in a long line of successful ensembles in the conservatory’s saxophone studio, this quartet — seniors David Davis, Sussex, and Sumner Truax, Chicago, Ill., junior Will Obst, St. Paul, Minn., and sophomore Phillip Dobernig, Mukwonago — won the annual Lawrence Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition last fall.

LU Saxophone Quartet: David Davis, Sumner Truax, Will Obst and Phil Dobernig

In March, they shared first-place honors in the annual Wisconsin Public Radio-sponsored Neale-Silva Young Artists competition in Madison.

And the nec plus ultra came this month via DownBeat magazine, which named the quartet its 2011 undergraduate college winner in the classical group category of its 34th annual Student Music Awards.

The classical group award was one of two Lawrence musicians received. Garth Neustader, a 2010 graduate, earning outstanding performance honors in the magazine’s undergraduate college jazz arrangement category for his work on “Tenderly.”

The awards were announced April 26 in DownBeat’s June edition. Known as “DBs” and presented in 12 categories in four separate divisions (junior high, high school, performing high school and college) the DownBeat awards are considered among the highest music honors in the field of jazz education.

“With their dedication and initiative, David, Sumner, Phil and Will are truly deserving of their success,” said Steve Jordheim, Lawrence professor of music and an award-winning saxophonist himself. “Though they’ve played together only one year, they have presented three full recital programs and premiered several works by Lawrence student composers. Their commitment to, and high level performance of, the art of chamber music is inspiring.”

The quartet was recognized based on a live recording of a diverse program they performed last fall that included Greg Wannamaker’s “Speed Metal Organum Blues,” “Just a Minute, Chopin” by Adam Silverman and “Quatuor pour Saxophones” by Jun Nagao.

Members credited the quartet’s success to a combination of chemistry, technique and great mentoring.

“Our personalities really allow us to work well together,” said Truax, who plays alto sax in the quartet. “Our rehearsals are very efficient because we don’t have a problem telling each other what we think needs to be fixed.”

“The way we rehearse is very methodical,” said Obst, the group’s baritone saxophonist. “We’ve informally devised a step-by-step process to work on intonation, rhythm, balance or phrasing.”

“I attribute much of our success to having truly amazing teachers,” added Davis, soprano saxophonist. “If it was not for the dedication and intense care and knowledge of Mr. Jordheim and Ms. (Sara) Kind, I would not be half as good as I am now.”

While thrilled with their DownBeat recognition, Dobernig said it’s important to keep the honor in proper perspective.

“One thing that we’ve found from doing competitions is that different judges have contrasting musical preferences that influence their decisions,” said Dobernig, the group’s tenor saxophonist. “The reality is that we played very well, and there were, without a doubt, many other groups that played very well. It’s certainly exciting, though, because of its prestige and national recognition.”

Although Davis will graduate in June, that doesn’t mean the quartet was a one-year wonder.

“We have a couple different possibilities in mind for the future,” said Truax. “All of us will be in the area next year, so we will continue to perform together. The plan is to enter some major national and international chamber music competitions in the future and if things go well, we’re definitely open to the idea of making a career out of it.”

Garth Neustadter '10

Neustadter, a first-year graduate student pursuing music composition at Yale University, was honored for his arrangement of the 1946 Walter Gross ballad “Tenderly,” a jazz classic that has been recorded by more than 80 major artists. He wrote his five-minute arrangement for studio orchestra and vocalist near the end of his senior year at Lawrence last spring.

“I’ve written a lot of original music but wanted to try my hand at arranging a ‘classic,’” said Neustadter, who won four DB awards in composition, jazz performance and classical performance while a student at Manitowoc Lutheran High School. “‘Tenderly’ has been successful through the ages because it retains the sophisticated elegance of the great ballads without sounding ‘dated’ or ‘old-fashioned.’ With such a wealth and variety of previous recordings and arrangements, it was somewhat intimidating and difficult to bring a ‘fresh’ compositional voice to the arrangement.

“Winning the DB continues to be a huge honor,” Neustadter added, “and I’m indebted to the jazz program at Lawrence for fostering such an atmosphere of collaboration, as well as to [director of jazz and improvisational studies] Fred Sturm for his continued mentorship and guidance.”

The two awards push Lawrence’s total to 19 DBs — including eight in the past five years — since DownBeat launched its student music awards competition in 1978. This year’s competition drew a total of 964 ensemble and individual entries for all categories in all four divisions.

Britain’s Radiohead Gets a Musical Makeover by Lawrence Jazz Department

The music of the inventive and popular English alternative rock band Radiohead gets a major makeover in Lawrence University’s ambitious Radiohead Jazz Project.

A dozen Radiohead songs, rearranged for large jazz ensemble format by an international array of composers, make their world premiere March 8-9 in a pair of  performances by the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble and the Lawrence University Jazz Band. The concerts, at 8 p.m. both nights in Stansbury Theatre of the Music-Drama Center, are free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Contact the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

The project was hatched last summer, when Fred Sturm, Lawrence’s director of jazz studies and improvisational music and colleague Patty Darling, director of the jazz band, discussed the feasibility of a Radiohead large jazz ensemble arranging initiative to bring added relevancy to the music their students play.

“I’ve heard too many collegiate jazz concerts that don’t include a single selection composed within the lifetime of the students,” said Sturm. “I want my students to be able perform the music of their time, not just the music of their forebears. Radiohead has been an international phenomenon for 25 years. Our students grew up with their music. The jazz-influenced works of Radiohead seemed the perfect focus for a jazz big band program.”

Darling, in collaboration with Williamette University’s James Miley, who was among the first to arrange Radiohead works for the large jazz ensemble, compiled a list of more than a dozen Radiohead tunes they felt best lent themselves to jazz ensemble.  Among the choices were the hits “Kid A,” “Idioteque,” “Knives Out,” and “Paranoid Android.”

To generate the music, Sturm recruited an international group of jazz arrangers — Germany’s Florian Ross and Sherisse Rogers, staff arranger for the Netherlands’ Metropole Orchestra — as well as young American composers with an affinity for Radiohead’s music, including collegiate jazz faculty members from California, Texas, Oregon, Kansas and Iowa. Sturm and Darling each contributed one arrangement to the project as well.

“This project has been a wonderful opportunity for musical growth,” said Darling.  “The students get to experience firsthand how these talented writers approach Radiohead’s music, how they alter the forms and harmonic structures and orchestrate for jazz ensemble. We are hoping that this project can serve as a kind of primer for contemporary arranging and composing.”

Many jazz solo artists and small ensembles have recorded Radiohead songs, including pianist Brad Mehldau (“Exit Music from a Film,” “Knives Out”), saxophonist Chris Potter (“Morning Bell”) and singer Jamie Cullum (“High and Dry”).

“Radiohead songs are among the ‘new standards’ being explored by jazz soloists and combos,” said Sturm, “and packaging them for the large jazz ensemble is a logical progression. This project is the first grand-scale effort to arrange multiple Radiohead compositions for the jazz big band.”

Formed in 1985, Radiohead released its first album in 1993 and achieved notoriety in their native United Kingdom shortly thereafter.  International recognition followed shortly and in 2005, the five-member band was ranked 73rd in Rolling Stone’s list of “The Greatest Artists of All Time.” Many consider Radiohead the most inventive and successful band in the modern rock era.

In recent years, the band has traded conventional instrumentation and standard song forms for rhythms and grooves seldom found in the rock genre. Radiohead lead guitarist and principal arranger Jonny Greenwood claims the band draws many conceptual elements from jazz.

“We bring in our favorite jazz albums and say: ‘We want to do this.’ That’s what we do and that’s what bands have always done, since the late ’50s — a bunch of guys in England listening to American blues records and copying them. In our case, it’s jazz.”

Radiohead’s latest CD, “King of Limbs,” released in mid-February, has drawn praise for its jazz influences.  In its review, The Chicago Tribune says “The new Radiohead never resolves the friction between the physical freedom of dance music and the carefully constructed architecture of more insular, inward looking art-pop. Its reference points are abstract jazz-fusion albums that implied funk without actually embracing it: Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew,” Herbie Hancock’s “Sextant.” That’s heady, serious territory.”

Following the March premiere, the Radiohead Jazz Project will be performed at three of the nation’s top collegiate jazz programs:  the University of North Texas, University of Miami and the Eastman School of Music. Sierra Music Publications, one of the major publishers of large jazz ensemble music, will distribute the print music as a series in the fall. In September, the HR Big Band in Frankfurt, Germany will record and tour with the project.

“We think we’re onto something very special,” said Sturm.  “There’s tremendous enthusiasm afoot among professional ensembles, university programs and high school jazz ensembles about this music.  We hope it will have a great future and we hope that audiences will love it, too.”

Singer Luciana Souza, Trombonist Conrad Herwig Bring Latin Twist to Lawrence University Jazz Celebration Weekend

Expect things to be a little spicier for this year’s Lawrence University Jazz Celebration Weekend. For the first time in the concert’s 30-year history, Jazz Celebration Weekend goes all Latin.

Brazil’s Grammy-winning singer Luciana Souza and her trio open the weekend Friday, Nov. 5. Trombonist Conrad Herwig, who has recorded Latin-styled tributes to Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, takes the stage Saturday, Nov. 6.

Souza will be joined by the Lawrence Hybrid Ensemble, while the Lawrence Jazz Faculty Quartet, Jazz Ensemble and Trombone Ensemble perform with Herwig.

Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, 510 E. College Ave., Appleton. Tickets are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

“American jazz intersected with rhythms and forms from Brazil, Cuba, and Puerto Rico more than 60 years ago,” said Fred Sturm, director of jazz studies at Lawrence and JCW organizer. “Visionaries like Dizzy Gillespie, Machito, Mario Bauza, Chano Pozo and Stan Kenton started fusing the diverse elements and saxophonist Stan Getz scored a global hit in the mid 1960s with his jazzy bossa nova “The Girl from Ipanema.” Jazz musicians today are as beholden to Latin music influences as they are to swing concepts. Souza’s Brazilian heritage and Herwig’s amazing Latin-styled CDs make them the ideal headliners for a Latin-themed jazz festival.”

Raised in a family of bossa nova innovators, Souza has emerged as one of jazz’s leading singers and interpreters, creating music that transcends traditional boundaries. She has performed and recorded with Herbie Hancock — winning a Grammy Award in 2008 for her work on “River – The Joni Letters” — as well as Paul Simon, Bobby McFerrin, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Her discography includes eight releases as a leader and more than 50 recordings as a side singer.

“Luciana is the personification of a musical ‘cross-over’ artist, equally comfortable singing Latin bossa novas, American popular standards, jazz, or classical chamber music,” said Sturm. “She’s a composer, a poet and a teacher who performs music about life and love. Her audiences get that immediately.”

The New York-based, 2005 Grammy Award-winning Herwig has created a highly identifiable niche in contemporary jazz with his series of “Latin Side” CDs honoring Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. His “Latin Side of Wayne Shorter” earned
Herwig a 2008 Grammy nomination and was cited on Downbeat Magazine’s “Best of 2008” list. He is a member of the jazz faculty at Rutgers University and also is a visiting professor of jazz studies at the Juilliard School of Music.

Professor of Music Nick Keelan, who teaches trombone at Lawrence, calls Herwig “a master” of the instrument.

“In his hands, the trombone has no limitations technically or musically. He plays the instrument so effortlessly. I place him in the top five of my favorite trombonists, alive and not, because of his creativity, musicianship, and great technical ability. Conrad’s music communicates with the listener because his pieces are interesting and engaging.”

In addition to the two visiting artist concerts, more than 1,000 university, high school and middle school instrumental and vocal jazz students will participate in daytime performances, educational clinics, and master classes on Saturday. All Saturday performances are free and open to the public.

“Jazz Weekend provides a jump start for school jazz programs across the Midwest,” said Sturm. “There’s no competition, no ratings, no awards. A team of the nation’s finest jazz educators offers joyful, inspired teaching, listening and learning.”

Since the inaugural Jazz Celebration Weekend in 1981, more than 20,000 students have participated in the event, directly impacting the quality of jazz education in Wisconsin and surrounding states.

DownBeat Magazine Honors Fred Sturm, Student Band Fatbook with Music Awards

For more than 30 years, Fred Sturm has devoted his life to enthusiastically sharing his love of jazz with aspiring musicians.

That dedication was not lost on the editors of DownBeat magazine, who have named Sturm a recipient of its 2010 Jazz Education Achievement Award as part of its annual Student Music Awards.

And for the second straight year, the magazine also recognized the Lawrence student band Fatbook with its blues/pop/rock category as the nation’s best college band, sharing the honor with Compendium from Western Michigan University.

The awards were announced in DownBeat’s June edition, which hit newsstands April 27. Known as “DBs” and presented in 15 categories in four separate divisions (junior high, high school, performing high school and college) the DownBeat awards are considered among the highest music honors in the field of jazz education.

Fred Sturm

As a 19-year-old student at Lawrence in the early 1970s, Sturm formed the conservatory’s first-ever jazz ensemble, which in turn became a catalyst for the creation of the jazz studies department at Lawrence. Four years after earning his degree from Lawrence, Sturm returned to Lawrence to direct the college’s jazz program, which he has done for 22 years (1977-91, 2002-10).

“The award certainly means a great deal to me,” said Sturm. “DownBeat is the jazz world’s bible and the mere fact that its editorial staff even knows who I am, let alone selected me for the award, is humbling.”

The Jazz Education Achievement Award honors jazz instructors who have made significant contributions toward the development of future jazz artists and positively impacted their school’s jazz programs through their commitment to jazz education. Winners are chosen by a panel of educators/artists.

Sturm shares the 2010 award with Bob Lark of DePaul University and Bob Sinicrope of the Milton Academy in Massachusetts.

DownBeat editor Ed Enright said Sturm was recognized as “the perfect example of a teacher who goes the extra mile” for his students and ensembles.

“Fred’s influence can be seen and heard throughout the jazz education community,” said Enright. “We recognize him for the many DownBeat Student Music Awards his students and ensembles have brought home over the years, the high quality of his compositions and arrangements, the effectiveness and popularity of his own published texts and teaching methods, his high-profile gigs as guest conductor for major jazz orchestras in Europe, and his tireless work as a clinician and ensemble coach at educational festivals throughout the United States.

DownBeat is very proud of its long association with Fred and we encourage him to continue his tireless efforts,” Enright added. “The very future of jazz itself depends on the work of top educators like him.”

Sturm’s student jazz ensembles at Lawrence and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where he spent 11 years, have won nine Downbeat awards during his career.

DownBeat has applauded our jazz efforts at Lawrence over the years with numerous awards for LUJE (jazz ensemble), Jazz Singers, combos, composers, arrangers and recording” said Sturm. “Receiving recognition as a teacher in DownBeat’s awards process has special significance for me.”


Last year, Fatbook became a footnote in Lawrence history as the college’s first non-curricular ensemble to be recognized by DownBeat. This year they add to that footnote by becoming Lawrence’s first-ever back-to-back DB recipient.

“The musicians in Fatbook deserve major kudos,” said Sturm, a mentor to the band. “Consecutive DownBeat awards is not only unprecedented for Lawrence ensembles and individual students, but it’s a rarity for any university in the Student Music Awards.  The Fatbook performers and composers have demonstrated a uniquely creative collective voice as an ensemble. I’m extremely proud of them.”

Formed in 2007, the seven-member band was recognized for its CD “No Time to Lose,” an all-original 10-track disc of songs written by members of the band.

Senior Harjinder Bedi, the “instigator” behind the creation of Fatbook, said there was a moment of “slight disbelief” in hearing the news the band had won for the second year in a row.

“But then I felt a sense of validation,” said Bedi, who plays guitar and sings lead vocals. “The award tells me that what we have going on with this project is worth investing our efforts in.”

Bedi is one of three Appleton students in the band along with founding members senior saxophonist Jake Crowe and trumpet player Ted Toussaint, a 2009 Lawrence graduate. Other original band members include bassist Nick Anderson, drummer Kyle Traska and trombonist Evan Jacobson, all 2009 graduates, along with keyboardist Dario LaPoma, a senior from Eugene, Ore.

With several members no longer on campus, Bedi said the band has been able to experiment with other talented musicians.

“In having some time with a fluid line-up, we’ve had the opportunity to grow and play with a number of different musicians from Lawrence and the Chicago area.”

Last year’s DownBeat award was a springboard to club dates throughout the Fox Cities and Wisconsin, with future concerts in Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago in the works. Fatbook also has applied for the 2010 Jazz Aspen Snowmass Academy Summer Sessions June 23-July 4.

“If we got accepted, it would be a great, if not humbling, experience for us,” said Bedi, a music education and anthropology major at Lawrence. “We’d be doing workshops with some of the greatest jazz musicians in the United States.”

With graduation on the horizon and a student-teaching position in Chicago scheduled this fall, Bedi is hoping to establish a base for the band in the Windy City.

“When we started this group, I had no expectations of how well things would go, but I said as long as we’re doing it, I’m going to push it as hard as I can and learn as much as I can,” said Bedi. “Ideally it would be great to be able to make music full time, but we’re all still kids and I’m trying to keep things in perspective.”

Sturm’s and Fatbook’s awards push Lawrence’s DB total to 17 since the competition was launched in 1978, and the college’s seventh DB since 2005.

This year’s DownBeat competition drew a total of 856 ensemble and individual entries for all categories in all four divisions.

Grammy Winner Bobby McFerrin to Perform “Migrations” at Lawrence Feb. 19

Ten-time Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin joins the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, Studio Orchestra and Hybrid Ensemble at 8 p.m., February 19, for the sold-out U.S. premiere of “Migrations: One World, Many Musics.”

Composed by Lawrence’s own Fred Sturm, Kimberly Clark Professor of Music and director of jazz studies, “Migrations” was commissioned in 2007 by McFerrin and the NDR Big Band in Hamburg, Germany. The work is a “musical plea for world unity” that illustrates both the distinct and shared characteristics of indigenous music from 18 countries on six continents.

Collaborating with a former Lawrence student, Brian Pertl ’86, an ethnomusicologist and, at the time, the manager of Microsoft’s Media Acquisitions Group, Sturm researched more than 2,000 recordings from around the globe. Sturm transcribed, arranged, orchestrated and “recomposed” about two-dozen indigenous recordings to create the magical two-hour concert showcasing McFerrin.

“The music we selected for ‘Migrations’ is centuries old,” Sturm said. “It’s pure, innocent, beautiful and powerful. Though the character and styles are as varied as the world’s people who created this music, there is a prevalent common linkage between the selections. Bobby’s improvisations and interpretations of the material I’ve scored are intended to illustrate the musical unity of the world’s people.”

With a four-octave vocal range and a wide array of vocal techniques, McFerrin is one of the natural wonders of the world. Famous for his 1989 hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” he is an ardent spokesman for music education. His collaborations with other artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock have established him as an ambassador of both the jazz and classical music worlds.

The concert will also feature Pertl, now the dean of the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, playing the didjeridu and jaw harp, and Dane Richeson, professor of music at Lawrence, on drums and percussion.

Sturm will host a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. in Stansbury Theatre, Music Drama Center, 420 E. College Ave, west of Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The concert is sold out, however, the public is invited to enter a contest to win one of 10 pairs of tickets for this special performance beginning Wednesday, February 10.