Rodney T. Whitaker, University Distinguished Professor of Jazz Bass, is an internationally renowned recording artist, jazz bassist, and professor of jazz double bass. He is the director of Jazz Studies in the College of Music and the artistic director for the Professors of Jazz at Michigan State University where he has built one of the most distinguished jazz degree programs and performing faculty groups in the United States of America. He is also the artistic director for the East Lansing Summer Solstice Jazz Festival, the Dr. Phillips Center Jazz Orchestra in Orlando, Florida, and the Gathering Orchestra in Detroit.
A Mack Avenue recording artist originally from Detroit, Whitaker’s playing is known as having one of the most undeniably distinctive bear-sized bass tones. He is considered one of the leading bass performers and teachers of the jazz double bass in the nation. After first receiving recognition with the Harrison/Blanchard Quintet, completed a seven-year tenure as bassist with Wynton Marsalis’ Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He has toured the world over the last thirty years, collaborating and performing with a long list of legendary jazz artists such as Jimmy Heath, Cyrus Chestnut, Shirley Caesar, Kathleen Battle, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Jon Faddis, Wycliffe Gordon, Kenny Burrell, Bob James, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Regina Carter, Pat Matheny, Jimmy Cobb, Marcus Belgrave, Chick Corea, Ingrid Jensen, Wessell Anderson, Randy Brecker, Branford Marsalis, Terell Stafford, Tim Warfield, Jon Carl Hendricks, Roy Hargrove, Marian McPartland, Dizzy Gillespie, and many more. He has also performed with leading symphony orchestras world-wide. Whitaker’s works have been featured on more than one hundred recordings including two film scores. His own releases have included Get Ready and Work to Do with Carl Allen and When We Find Ourselves Alone with Soul-R Energy, among several others.
As an educator, Whitaker has presented master classes, clinics and workshops at conferences and several universities, festivals and schools. He is a consultant for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and played a key role in the development of the jazz education department for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Civic Ensembles. His teaching ability is shown in his distinguished former students who have gone on to perform with jazz greats such as Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Pat Matheny, Count Basie Orchestra, Stefon Harris, and many more.