Great sax

Baritone saxophonist and 2011 Outstanding Collegiate Jazz Soloist Matt Stuver

Saxophonist and JMU music graduate Matt Stuver (’03) has been named by Downbeat magazine as the 2011 Outstanding Collegiate Jazz Soloist. It is an exceptional honor tantamount to the Heisman Trophy in football, acccording to JMU music professor David Pope, one of Matt’s mentors during his years at JMU. Matt also worked closely with Chuck Dotas, professor of music and director of JMU’s Jazz Ensemble.

“When I started working with Matt,” David says, “it was evident to me that he had tremendous potential.  He wasn’t even really aware of the depth of his talent, but I recognized it right away.  In our work together, Matt discovered that the harder he worked, the more he could tap into that potential.  He spent more time in the practice room than any of his peers, and he rapidly went from being in the middle of our saxophone studio to the very top.  It was inspiring to watch him explode into a gifted saxophone soloist.  Matt continued his studies at the Eastman School of Music, where he would earn two masters degrees and has nearly finished a doctorate.  I literally don’t know anyone who has masters degrees in classical AND jazz saxophone performance — I can’t overemphasize the sustained amount of effort that this requires. Matt’s success is a direct result of the kind of person that he is, and his successes speak to the integrity of his work.”

Here is the press release announcing Matt’s award:

Matt Stuver of the Eastman School of Music was named the best Graduate College Jazz Soloist in DownBeat magazine’s 34th Annual Student Music Awards. A doctoral student in saxophone, Stuver was recognized for his performance in the U.S. premiere of “Suite for Soprano Saxophone and 16 Instruments,” a work by legendary composer-arranger and jazz artist Bob Brookmeyer.

“Suite for Soprano Saxophone” is a work in four movements with both written material and extensive improvisation for the soloist. The work was presented in the United States for the first time during a concert by the Eastman Jazz Ensemble on Oct. 20, 2010.

At Eastman, where he received his master’s degree in 2006, Stuver was a member of the Eastman Wind Ensemble and performed with the ensemble on its 2004 Asian tour and 2005 concert in Carnegie Hall. In 2006, he was selected to participate in the Henry Mancini Institute. Stuver played with the Rochester Philharmonic Pops Orchestra and appeared in the Rochester International Jazz Festival with both the Dave Rivello Ensemble and the Eastman Jazz Ensemble. He directed the Saxology ensemble at the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester’s Jazz Ensemble. Stuver’s primary teacher at Eastman was Ramon Ricker; he also studied privately with Walt Weiskopf, Bill Dobbins, and Clay Jenkins.

Stuver has won a saxophone position with the United States Naval Academy Band, and will be playing in its Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, and Ceremonial Band while completing his comprehensive exams for his Doctor of Musical Arts degree.

“Matt is certainly musically talented, but there are lots of talented people in the world,” said Ricker, who is Professor of Saxophone and Senior Associate Dean for Professional Studies at Eastman. “In order to rise above the pack it also takes hard work and dedication to get the most out of what you have been given. Matt has put it all together and done just that. What a bright future he has ahead of him!”

Before coming to the Eastman School as a graduate student, Stuver studied music education at James Madison University, where his saxophone instructor was David Pope, who received his Master of Music degree at Eastman in 1997.

The Student Music Awards were announced the DownBeat’s June issue.

To read more about JMU’s Saxophone Studio, click here:

Welcome to transformative change

Art for the cover of the new Masterpiece Season brochure by Lynda Ramsey

This summer the new Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, a collection of classrooms and performance venues that will transform the arts at Madison, opened.  It is a place you must see to believe. JMU graphic designer Lynda Ramsey captured some of its beauty, drama and excitement in her design of the new Masterpiece Season brochure.  Lynda’s stunning image is an artful composite of photographs that hints at the excitement to come — and I wanted you to see it.

The 168,000 sq. ft. Forbes Center features five new venues in two joined buildings, the Dorothy Thomasson Estes Center for Theatre and Dance and the Shirley Hanson Roberts Center for Music Performance. The new venues include a concert hall, a proscenium theater, and a black box (a transformable space) for experimental theater.  In addition, the Forbes Center has the Earlyn J. Miller Dance Theatre and a recital hall. Each state-of-the-art performance venue is cleverly designed and engineered with cutting-edge systems, such as silent air conditioning, that enhance rather than distract from performances.  No more heavy compressors turning on in the middle of dialogue to drown out the performers’ words. In addition to performance spaces, the center has costume and set-design shops, classrooms, offices and grand lobbies.  For the first time in JMU’s history, dance, theatre, music students and faculty will congregate at one spectacular space on campus to practice and perform what they love.

When you stand in the lobby of the new Forbes center and look out across the Quad, Wilson Hall is framed in the windows of the new venue.  Eighty years ago ground was broken on Wilson Hall. The next spring, May 1931, Edith Bolling Wilson, widow of President Woodrow Wilson, came to Harrisonburg to attend the dedication of the new building named to honor her husband. With a seating capacity of 1,400, Wilson Hall was the finest stage in the state of Virginia at the time. Now 80 years later, with the opening of the Forbes Center, Madison once again offers the finest!

To learn more about the new Forbes Center, click here:

Forbes Center for the Performing Arts

For pictures of the new venues:

Check out the new JMU arts website, where you can see what’s coming and buy tickets By the way, if you want to attend an event and are concerned about parking — no worries. A new parking deck opened in 2007 right behind Forbes!

You can also keep up with the latest conversations about Forbes on Facebook:!/JMUArts?ref=mf

The week before last, Phil Vassar (’85) kicked off a fabulous performance season with the center’s first concert, a sold-out event. Last weekend, the Harrisonburg community had an opportunity to tour the new center.  If you’re in the area, don’t miss it! If you’re not, make sure it’s on your schedule for your next visit to JMU.

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