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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 25, 2005

UI Big Band Spotlights Female Composers In March 9 Concert

Johnson Country Landmark, the top jazz big band at the University of Iowa School of Music, will present "An Evening of Women Jazz Composers" as a benefit for the local chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota (SAI), the international women's music fraternity, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 9 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The concert, under the direction of John Rapson, will be free and open to the public. There will be a donation box in the lobby for contributions to SAI for music scholarships.

The concert will feature UI alumnus Bob Thompson as guest saxophonist and works by four leading jazz composers: Sandy Evans, Maria Schneider, Brenda Halverson and Carla Bley.

Thompson will be featured in three works by Bley, with whom he played when she was an Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor at the UI in 2001, and in music by the veteran jazz orchestra leader Schneider.

SAI aims to promote interaction among those who share a commitment to music. College members are encouraged to be active in all areas of campus music and life, and to work closely with faculty, administration, campus and community groups, music professionals and patrons. By providing scholarships, performance opportunities, and mentoring of other musicians, the more than 100,000 national members of SAI hope to provide a supportive atmosphere for musicians to excel. The Iowa City alumnae chapter, established in 1981, sponsors undergraduate music scholarships.

Evans is recognized as one of the leading jazz saxophonists and composers in Australia. She leads the Sandy Evans Trio and co-leads the internationally acclaimed Clarion Fracture Zone. She is a member of Ten Part Invention, with whom she visited the UI as part of a United States tour last fall. She also plays with The Catholics, the Australian Art Orchestra, austraLYSIS, the Kristen Cornwell Quintet, Guy Strazzullo's Passionfruit and Kim Sanders and Friends. With percussionist Tony Lewis and koto player Satsuki Odamura, she co-leads the innovative world music trio Waratah.

An extraordinarily versatile musician, Bley has performed in a variety of jazz styles and settings. Her written compositions range from big-band jazz charts to chamber music that straddles the divide between jazz and contemporary concert music, to solo piano pieces for classical pianist Ursula Oppens, to the fusion opera "Escalator Over the Hill." Her music has been performed by pianist Keith Jarrett, vibes virtuoso Gary Burton, bassist Charlie Haden, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and countless jazz musicians around the world.

Schneider began studying piano at five and graduated from the University of Minnesota and the Eastman School of Music. In 1985, she became an assistant to the famous composer and arranger Gil Evans. At the 1993 Spoleto Music Festival, Schneider conducted the Gil Evans Orchestra in a concert of selections from "Miles Ahead", "Porgy & Bess" and "Sketches of Spain" albums. She also has conducted major jazz orchestras in Europe and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra. The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra has been performing at Visiones in Greenwich Village every Monday night since March of 1993. The 1994 "Down Beat" critics poll named the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra first in Talent Deserving Wider, and she was voted third as an arranger in the same poll.

Originally from the Iowa town of Agency, Thompson came to the UI as a saxophone performance major in 1977. He currently lives and works in Iowa City and performs with other area jazz musicians. He is a member of Iowa's Orchesta Alto Maiz and the webmaster for the group's Web page (, and he also performs with the Chris Merz Ctet and the Dennis McMurrin Demolition Band.

"He has become the 'first call' saxophonist for professional jazz work on all the saxophones, clarinet and flute," Rapson said. "A carpenter by day, a computer menace by night, B.T. is the best kept jazz secret in Iowa."

A major ensemble in the UI School of Music jazz program, Johnson County Landmark (JCL) is a repertory ensemble devoted to the performance of original compositions by jazz masters. JCL has the standard big-band instrumentation, with full sections of reed, brass and rhythm instruments. It is made up largely of students in the UI School of Music majoring in performance or in the jazz area.

JCL tours throughout the Midwest. In addition to its free concerts on the UI campus, JCL makes frequent appearances at clubs in Iowa City. It is one of 11 ensembles in the jazz program of the UI School of Music. In recent years the group has collaborated with leading jazz artists, including their concerts in 2001 with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow.

Rapson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music as director of jazz studies in August 1993. A recording artist for the Sound Aspects and Nine Winds labels, he is a composer and trombonist whose work mixes ethnic and experimental elements with more conventional jazz forms. His recording "Dances and Orations" has been hailed as "one of the most vital CDs to come around in a long time" in Jazziz and as "a conceptual and musical triumph" by Josef Woodard in the Independent. Previous albums under Rapson's direction are "Bing" for Sound Aspects, and "Buwah" and "Deeba dah bwee" for Nine Winds. He has also recorded "A Mingus Among Us" and "Been There, Done That" with Johnson County Landmark.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,