Renowned NY Jazz Clarinetist-saxophonist Visits MSU

Anat Cohen inspires students to explore global styles through the MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program.

MSU Federal Credit Union Jazz Artist in Residence Anat Cohen performs with MSU Jazz Octets at Cook Recital Hall of the Music Building.
Anat Cohen teaches a combined studio class with MSU College of Music Jazz Studies students.
Anat Cohen with College of Music Jazz Studies student Gerand McDowell on WXMI 17 in Grand Rapids.
Anat Cohen performs at Northview High School with MSU Jazz Octet 1 under the direction of Professor Diego Rivera.
Anat Cohen pauses for a photo with students from high schools Northview and Byron Center
Anat Cohen pauses for a large group photo with MSU Jazz Octets 1 & 2.
Anat Cohen preforms with the Oxford High School Jazz Band.

Tenor saxophonist Ben Stocker draws inspiration from a lot of people and places, including players of the jazz clarinet.

So when Stocker heard that jazz virtuoso Anat Cohen was coming to mentor and perform with students like him at the Michigan State University College of Music, he began to intensely prepare for her weeklong residency in jazz clarinet and saxophone.

I listened to her records leading up to her visit to prepare to play her music,” says Stocker, a third-year undergraduate in jazz performance. Those recordings serve as a reminder to me of how incredibly talented she is on the clarinet, and inspire me to be a better clarinet player.”

Cohen was the third of four jazz artists to mentor and perform with College of Music Jazz Studies students through the 2016-17 Jazz Artists in Residence program. Cohen came to campus Feb. 4-11 for a visit that involved touring with the MSU Jazz Octets to high schools, festivals and academies throughout Michigan. Her residency was supported through a $1 million endowment by MSU Federal Credit Union, and included a public performance in the MSU Cook Recital Hall.

Cohen was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, and attended the Tel Aviv School for the Arts, the “Thelma Yellin” High School for the Arts and the Jaffa Music Conservatory. After graduation, she discharged her mandatory Israeli military service duty from 1993-95, playing tenor saxophone in the Israeli Air Force Band. She attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, and spent a decade touring with Sherrie Maricle’s all-woman big band, The Diva Jazz Orchestra. She also worked in Brazilian groups including the Choro Ensemble and Duduka Da Fonseca’s Samba Jazz Quintet.

Cohen is a fixture on the New York scene at clubs such as Birdland, the Village Vanguard, Jazz Standard, Blue Note, Iridium, Joe’s Pub, Greenwich House, and the Jazz Gallery, as well as other top clubs across the country and around the world. She has toured extensively and headlined at the Newport, Umbria, SF Jazz and North Sea jazz festivals. In March 2015, Anzic Records released Luminosa, her seventh album as a bandleader. 

Associate Professor of Jazz Studies, Saxophone and Improvisation Diego Rivera says Cohen’s visit inspired all his saxophone students to “dust off their clarinets” and to realize the incredible potential of the instrument. He says Cohen's residency was a pivotal experience for students, and enabled them to explore a range of styles and genres. He praised her ability to connect with students and audiences through her warm, personal style.

“To describe her as a musician and person is the same thing,” says Rivera. “She’s giving and extremely knowledgeable. And her music is sophisticated and complex but not inaccessible in any way. She commands an incredible amount of respect, and it’s returned—both from students and audiences.”

MSU Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker says being able to bring acclaimed musicians like Cohen to MSU is indicative of the growing momentum surrounding the jazz residency program.

“The MSU College of Music is continuing to rise to the top as a center of excellence in jazz education and performance,” says Whitaker. “All of us here in Jazz Studies owe our continual thanks to the MSU Federal Credit Union for their support of our quest to preserve and advance the American art form of jazz through music education and opportunity.”  

The MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program represents the largest-ever investment in the College of Music’s curriculum. The 2016-2017 season features a blazing line-up of critically acclaimed musicians from the international, national, and regional scene. The four weeklong residencies include Jazz Guitarist Russell Malone, Bassist Rufus Reid, Clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen and Trombonist Conrad Herwig.

Recap: On the Road with Anat Cohen

While an MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence in February, jazz clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen took to the road with the Jazz Octets as part of MSU’s efforts to bring jazz performance and education to Michigan high schools, music academies and colleges.

Destinations and highlights:

  • Carr Center Arts Academy, Detroit… 100 people attended a community outreach concert involving five students.
  • MSBOA District 8 Jazz Festival, Mason… 350 people attended the Cohen and Jazz Octets performance at an annual jazz festival for high school students.
  • Northview High School, Grand Rapids; Rockford High School, Rockford… 535 people attended a community outreach concert; 43 students were involved in workshops.
  • East Lansing High School, East Lansing; Fowlerville High School… 75 East Lansing students and 350 Fowlerville students were involved in workshops and performances.
  • Williamston High School, Williamston… 250 students attended a school assembly and performance.
  • Oxford High School, Oxford… 130 people attended a community outreach concert; 35 students were involved in workshops.

What students and community members said:

From visited schools . . .

“Thank you all!! What an amazing night.  I think the word of the night was musical JOY!!  What a blessing!  Anat’s playing was truly the embodiment of JOY!!!  The night was so humbling, rewarding, and without ego for any group/individuals.  It was the way it was supposed to be—about the art of music making and sharing with others!  I’m still on cloud nine right now.”

—Greg Wells, Director, Northview High School

“Last night was a night we will not forget and we are so humbled to be a part of this wonderful collaboration with MSU!!  The students and I are still buzzing on cloud 9 as well.  Honored!!”

—Cullen McCarthy, Director, Rockford High School

From Facebook . . .

  • “Amazing Night”
  • “Miss Cohen is out of this world, what a treat for our kids”
  • “Diego Rivera is AMAZING”
  • “Spectacular”
  • “We didn’t want it to end”
  • “We need to do this again”
  • “When can we do this again?”
  • “Truly a magical night for our kids”
  • “I really enjoyed Ms. Cohen's compositions and loved how the music made me want to dance.”

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