Robin Eubanks, MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence

Renowned jazz trombonist shared insights and inventions with MSU Jazz Studies and K-12 students in Michigan.

Robin Eubanks, jazz trombone, performs with MSU Jazz Orchestra I at the Fairchild Theatre.
Robin Eubanks on Trombone, Etienne Charles, professor of jazz trumpet on Conga, and jazz student Anessa Al-Musawwie on bass.
Michael Dease, assistant professor of jazz trombone and Robin Eubanks.
Robin Eubanks and students of the MSU Jazz Studies program pose in front of the Sparty statue.
The MSU Professors of Jazz perform with Robin Eubanks during the MSU Federal Credit Union’s Blue Monday concert.
Robin Eubanks with students from the Shabazz Academy in Lansing.

Robin Eubanks’ visit to Michigan State University was filled with several parts inspiration, several parts storytelling, and a tremendous amount of sharing about the wonders of jazz and the contemporary music scene.

The acclaimed jazz trombonist came to campus in early December through the MSU Federal Credit Union Jazz Artist in Residence program. Eubanks, who has collaborated with artists ranging from Art Blakey to the Rolling Stones, was the second of five scheduled artists to hold weeklong residencies with Jazz Studies in the 2014-15 academic year.

“Forward thinking and approachable are what comes to mind when you think of Robin,” says Assistant Professor of Jazz Trombone Michael Dease. “Robin treats everyone equally and is incredibly open to ideas and learning. He gave students 100 percent of his time and attention when he was here.”

Eubanks’ seven-day residency was packed with workshops, master classes, and campus and community concerts. The notable trombonist also took to the road with MSU’s Jazz Orchestra I to visit music and jazz programs at schools across lower and Western Michigan.

“Robin spent so much time with students, some days from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” says Dease. “That’s a testament to the quality person and musician he is. It’s also a testament to the priceless experiences this program gives our students to learn from such a world-class musician.”

Dease says he instantly thought of Eubanks when he was asked to suggest an artist for MSU’s new jazz residency program. Dease was 19 and playing in New York when he first met Eubanks, who was 30 years his senior. Dease said the well-established trombonist was extremely approachable and interested in emerging talent. The two became friends and frequently played and practiced together, each sharing techniques and learning from one another.

“I was impressed by how much he was willing to share and how interested he was in learning from everyone,” says Dease. “I’ve always remembered that and wanted to provide a similar experience for our kids here at MSU.”

Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker agrees that Eubanks is uniquely adept at relating to performers and students of all ages.

“He approaches music in a relaxed but serious way,” says Whitaker. “He was an ideal role model for our students, and encouraged them to seek out mentors and role models in the music scene throughout their lives.”

Jazz Orchestra I trombonist Jamie Burchett says he was excited to spend time with the renowned player and innovative composer.

“Very few trombonists use electronic sounds and loops to distort or alter their sound like the way he can,” says Burchett. “Every day when we performed for a new audience it was fun to see their reaction to hearing an electronic trombone. It’s nothing like you’ve ever heard before.”

Whitaker remarked how Eubanks’ inventive and accessible style inspired students and educators at schools in Lansing, Kalamazoo, Clarkston, and Holland. In the course of three days, Eubanks and Jazz Orchestra I students held workshops for nearly 20 to 40 students at each location, interacted with band directors and teachers, and performed for audiences of nearly 350 community members.

“Having someone like Robin come here is simply magical,” says Whitaker. “To be able to go behind the scenes, to join him on stage, and to see first-hand how a musician of his stature approaches his art is an experience students will never forget.” 

The MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program represents the largest-ever investment in the College of Music’s curriculum. The 2014-2015 programs features a blazing line-up of critically acclaimed musicians from the international, national, and regional scene, including Christian McBride, Robin Eubanks, Peter Bernstein, and Michigan jazz icons Tim Froncek and Vincent Bowens.

Recap: On the Road with Robin Eubanks

While an MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence last December, trombonist and composer Robin Eubanks took to the road with Jazz Orchestra I as part of MSU’s efforts to bring jazz performance and education to Michigan high schools, music academies, and colleges.

Destinations and highlights:

  • Clarkston High School 23 students attended workshops and were involved in an outreach concert for more than 350 community members.
  • West Ottawa High School 17 kids participated in one-on-one workshops and an outreach concert for close to 120 community members.
  • Lansing Shabazz Academy More than 300 students in the K-6 school attended an outreach concert and question and answer session.
  • Hackett Catholic Central About 250 people came to an evening outreach concert following workshops that involved 27 students.

What people said:

“Having the MSU Jazz Band sit in and rehearse with my students really helped push them to new goals on what they should sound like. They really enjoyed hearing Mr. Eubanks’ approach to improvisation”
-Justin Harris, assistant band director, Clarkston High School, Clarkston

“Thank you for bringing Robin and for exposing our students to such a masterful and creative musician. The experience made our kids think much more deeply about music and creativity. It was great for them.”
-Mike Hamann, chairperson, West Ottawa High School, Holland

“My students absolutely loved meeting, hearing, and playing with MSU musicians and Mr. Eubanks. We are extremely appreciative of MSU Jazz Studies and the MSUFCU for making this special opportunity possible.”
-Scott Walker, band director, Hackett Catholic Central, Kalamazoo

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