Saxophonist Visits and Tours with MSU Jazz Studies

Tim Warfield Jr. shares perspectives on music and life through MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program.

MSU Federal Credit Union Jazz Artist in Residence, Tim Warfield, Jr., performs on stage at MSU’s Fairchild Theatre. Photo by Jessica Cowles
Tim Warfield, Jr. performs with MSU Jazz Orchestra I on stage at Alma High School.
Tim Warfield along with Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker, Jazz Events Coordinator Max Colley III, and MSU Alum Corey Kendrick pose in the WDIV Studios in Detroit before an on air performance.
Tim Warfield and Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker pose for a photo outside of Hitsville, Motown's first headquarters.
Tim Warfield Jr. takes a moment to pose for a photo with MSU Jazz Orchestra 1 at the Carr Center Theatre in Detroit.
Tim Warfield, Jr. along with Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker and members of MSU Jazz Orchestra I work with students at Spring Lake High School during a workshop, Spring Lake, Michigan.

Diego Rivera did not hesitate when he was asked to name a saxophonist for a premier jazz residency program through the MSU College of Music.

Tim Warfield, Jr. is an excellent choice,” says Rivera, an assistant professor of jazz saxophone and improvisation. “It was great for our students to see his musical talents, as well as his warmth and character as a human being.”

In late February and early March, Warfield became the fourth of four critically acclaimed artists to visit the College of Music through the 2016 MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program. His weeklong residency from Feb. 29 to March 6 was made possible by a $1 million endowment from the MSU Federal Credit Union and included master classes with jazz students, a musical tour of high schools and academies throughout Michigan with the MSU Jazz Orchestra I, and public performances at the MSU Federal Credit Union and Fairchild Theatre.

A native of York, Pa., Tim Warfield, Jr. serves as artist-in-residence at Messiah College and as an adjunct music faculty member at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is also a member of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia under the direction of Terell Stafford. 

Warfield began studying saxophone at age 9 and placed third at the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 1991. He has appeared on television and stage, including “The Today Show” and Ted Turner’s Trumpet Awards, and with such notables as Donald Byrd, Michelle Rosewoman, Marcus Miller, Marlon Jordan, James Williams, Christian McBride, Winard Harper, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Coles, Leslie Burrs, Isaac Hayes, Peter Nero, Shirley Scott, Jimmy Smith and Kenny Barron. Warfield, Jr. has played on several Grammy-nominated recordings. His latest release, “Spherical: Dedicated to Thelonious Sphere Monk,” came out in March 2015 on the Criss Cross label.

“As a musician, it’s incredible to be around somebody like Tim,” Rivera says. “He’s really cut from the same cloth as John Coltrane and other saxophone greats. He’s also very approachable, and genuinely interested in what students have to say. Every day, he stayed as long as he was needed to make sure students got the most from him.”

MSU Jazz Studies Junior Markus Howell says he will never forget Warfield’s genuine interest and kindness, and how taken he was by Warfield’s humbleness. He recalls how Warfield compared notes with students, and considered their ideas on music styles, techniques, and influences.

“He would give us something old and we would give him something new,” Howell says. “Then he would check things out. That meant a lot—to see that even someone with so much mastery and command over what he does is still learning, still pushing to get better. It was very inspiring to see that.”

MSU Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker says the MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program helps strengthen MSU’s position as a center for jazz study and tradition. Now in it’s third season, the program brings in three to five prominent jazz artists throughout the academic year to mentor MSU students as well as K-12 students at schools and academies statewide.

“Jazz exists because of the strong tradition of mentorship,” Whitaker says. “The MSU
Federal Credit Union recognizes that tradition and has provided an incredible gift that will help shape and influence the next generation of jazz musicians.”

Howell concurs that the MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program has had a profound impact on his musical study and career.

“Having these artists come here is one of the main reasons I’m here,” says Howell, a Florida native. “When I heard about the program, I knew MSU was where I wanted to be. Now that I’m here. I’m just so grateful to be part of it.”

The MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program represents the largest-ever investment in the College of Music’s curriculum. The 2015-2016 season features a blazing line-up of critically acclaimed musicians from the international, national, and regional scene, including Trumpeter Brian Lynch, Drummer Jimmy Cobb, Pianist Kenny Barron, and Saxophonist Tim Warfield, Jr.

Recap: On the Road with Tim Warfield

While an MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence in February and March, jazz saxophonist Tim Warfield, Jr. took to the road with the 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:

  • Royal Oak High School… 36 students participated in a workshop and attended an outreach concert with 200 community members
  • Spring Lake High School … 16 students attended a workshop, 40 played during the performance, 100 attended an outreach concert
  • Alma High School… 32 students participated in a workshop, 230 community members attended an outreach concert
  • Carr Center Theatre… 110 people from the surrounding Detroit community attended a concert

What people said:

Alma High Schoo Students:

  • “It was the most enjoyable hands-on musical experience I’ve ever had.”
  • “Being able to see the high level of performance was not only entertaining, but also educationally rewarding.”
  • “I liked watching how the MSU band interacted in such an encouraging way with one another. It motivated me to want to be more on the same page in our group.”
  • “Being able to play backs for Tim Warfield was really fun.”
  • “Best experience of my high school career.”
  • “It helped me to become better and push myself to experiment on my instrument and not be scared to try new things.”
  • “It was inspirational.”
  • “It was a great experience.”
  • “It was awesome.”

“The experience of having Professor Whitaker and the MSU Jazz Orchestra work with my students and having Mr. Warfield perform with my students was one of the highlights of my teaching career. The students gained a tremendous amount of knowledge in such a short time by interacting with these great players, by hearing them play, and by observing the spirit of joy and collaboration they brought to the music.  The experience will be one my students and I will remember for the rest of our lives.”
– Band Director Tim Newman, Alma High School

“What a wonderful opportunity for your students and for us in the community! Knowing that your students also had a workshop with these musicians made it even more exciting. Mr. Warfield and the MSU jazz orchestra were phenomenal. It was great to see the spread of talent and levels of ability and styles; what a fantastic relationship and partnership! I know the importance of exposing students to those professional experiences!
– A community member at the outreach concert, Alma, Mich.

“Rodney Whitaker and the MSU Jazz Orchestra bring education, inspiration and encouragement to our band every year.” 
– Ben, student drummer, Spring Lake High School

 “I thought Professor Whitaker really knew how to put the finishing touches on a piece. He really knew how to make our band swing. Also I thought that the trumpet players gave some excellent advice, as far as technique and style, for playing in a professional big band environment. ”
– Danny Wade, student, Royal Oak High School

“I learned a lot about how technical music can be, and how adding things that aren’t on paper can add a lot more feeling to the music. ”
– Norene Bassin, student, Royal Oak High School

 “I’m so grateful my students had an opportunity to work with this amazing band.  Professor Whitaker works so well with these young musicians.  Tim Warfield was truly inspirational and an absolute gentleman.  Max Colley handled every last detail. The students were gracious, approachable and gave a fantastic performance! ”
– Dave Jensen, band director, Royal Oak High School 

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