UIC music season heralds new jazz studies leader

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Group shot - Michael Stryker

Michael Stryker (center), director of jazz studies, with the Reggie Thomas Quartet at UIC.

As the University of Illinois at Chicago music season begins Oct. 12, it is welcoming a musician who has performed and recorded with many jazz greats to lead UIC’s jazz studies program.

Michael Stryker, who began his role as director of the program this fall, serves as clinical professor of music and directs the UIC Jazz Ensemble. He also teaches jazz piano and improvisation in the School of Theatre and Music.

The season, which runs from Oct. 12 until Dec. 8, will feature performances by 10 major ensembles and multiple chamber groups and jazz combos.

Stryker called his appointment to UIC, in the heart of a city where jazz has played such an important role, “a dream come true.”

“I am thrilled to return to Chicago and serve as the director of jazz studies at UIC, a university located in a vibrantly diverse and culturally rich urban setting,” Stryker said. “Leading UIC’s jazz program and performing and teaching in the heart of Chicago…it’s a dream come true and makes my first year back in the city after a long absence extra special.”

He pointed to the UIC Jazz Ensemble’s Nov. 19 concert, “Art of the Big Band,” as an example of what he wants to accomplish with performances this year. He said his aim this season is to expose students to the wealth of music available for the jazz orchestra and played by the big bands of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Bob Mintzer and Maria Schneider, among others.

“Chicago has long been known for its contributions to jazz,” Stryker said.

He plans to build on the strength of the jazz faculty including: Andy Baker, trombonist; Ernie Adams, drummer; Larry Kohut, bassist; Chris Madsen, saxophonist; Zvonimir Tot, guitarist; Dan Murphy, pianist; Victor Garcia, trumpeter; as well as Rich Armandi and Brad Williams, talented artists teaching jazz history for the school.

“These are exceptional artist-teachers, committed to training students for success in today’s diverse musical landscape,” Stryker said. “I look forward to bringing new students into the School of Theatre and Music, and building on the faculty’s strengths as players and educators.”

He also said he planned to honor UIC’s past by building on the legacy of people like the late Dick Wang, a jazz scholar at UIC who directed the UIC Jazz Ensemble from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Stryker is also on the faculty of the Birch Creek Summer Music Performance Center in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. He earned his doctorate at the Eastman School of Music in 2010. Past degrees include a bachelor’s in biology from Purdue University, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in jazz performance from DePaul University. He has previously taught at Western Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, DePaul University and the University of California at Berkeley.

The season begins with classical music Oct. 12, when the UIC Wind Ensemble takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. at the UIC Theatre, 1044 W. Harrison St.

Admission is cash only and the recommended ticket price is $10 (general)/$5 students and seniors. If you are unable to pay the full cost, there is a pay-what-you-can policy. UIC students are free with ID.

A full list of concerts and show times is available at the School of Theatre and Music website.

In addition, the School of Theatre and Music is continuing a free jazz concert series at UIC sponsored by jazz pedagogue and publisher Jamey Aebersold. The series began last year and continues with 7:30 p.m. performances Oct. 17 and Nov. 21 at the UIC Theatre, Room L285. More information is available online.