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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 22, 2006

Dec. 7 Alumni Jazz Concert Kicks Off Four Days Of Musical Reunion

A concert featuring both music and performances by alumni of the University of Iowa jazz program -- showcased as the UI Alumni All Stars, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7 in Clapp Recital Hall -- has blossomed into full-fledged reunion of more than 50 former UI students over four days.

"It's been fun already and we've yet to actually start making music together," said John Rapson, director of jazz studies in the UI School of Music.

The concert Thursday night will feature a long and stellar list of UI jazz alumni along with the university's celebrated Johnson County Landmark jazz band, directed by Rapson. Part of the year-long Centennial Celebration at the School of Music, the concert will be free and open to the public.

But Thursday's concert will only be the beginning of the fun for the jazz alumni and their fans in the Iowa City area. The Sanctuary, a long-time haven for local jazz musicians at 405 South Gilbert St. in Iowa City, will host performances by UI jazz alumni Friday and Saturday nights, Dec. 8 and 9, and there will be a Jazz Vespers service at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, in Trinity Episcopal Church, 320 East College St.

Rapson noted how the one concert grew into a series of events. "When we started this venture, it was just my hope to bring in a few soloists who have become luminaries in the jazz world," he said. "Then we found that there was enough enthusiasm to actually have an entire jazz orchestra of alumni. And now it has mushroomed into an out-and-out reunion.

"By the time we finish with our performances on Friday and Saturday at the Sanctuary and then the Jazz Vespers at Trinity Episcopal on Sunday, we will have seen more than 50 Jazz alums from around the nation  . . . well, the world for that matter.

"When jazz first got going at Iowa, they had to rehearse in the basement of the Jefferson hotel. It may be that the tenacity and artistry of the musicians from these early years set a mold that has been the legacy our current students enjoy: adventurous improvisers and creative composers."

The Dec. 7 program includes both pieces and performances by many jazz artists who have long connections to the UI and the Iowa City community:

-- The concert will open with Chris Merz's arrangement of "Get Happy" by Harold Arlen, and his own composition, "Slinky."

-- Two works will be included by Bret Zvacek: "Nuance," featuring solos by Tom Ott, Peter Gillette, Bobby Domsic, Rob Baner; and "You Again."

-- Bob Thomson's "Elephant Skip" will feature solos by Bobby Domsic and Brian Smith.

-- "Nanga Def" will represent Paul Scea on the program with solos by Tom Ott, Peter Gillette, Bobby Domsica and Rob Baner.

-- Rafael dos Santos, who for several years brought a unique Brazilian tinge to the local music scene, will have two pieces on the program: "Jirau," with soloist Brian Smith, and "Deborah," with soloist: Bobby Domsic.

-- Finally, Steve Wright will be represented by "Einstein by the Numbers," featuring soloist Rob Baner, and "S.O.S."

Established in 1906, the UI School of Music will celebrate its centennial throughout the 2006-07 academic year. The celebration was inaugurated Sept. 9 with a highly successful Centennial Gala Showcase Concert and will feature a series of concerts throughout the 2006-07 academic year, many of them presenting new compositions that were commissioned from UI alumni for the occasion. The concerts, including performances by UI faculty and many of the major ensembles of the School of Music, are listed on the Web at

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. A presence at the UI since the 1960s, the group has traveled to jazz festivals in the United States and Europe, picking up awards on both sides of the Atlantic. In recent years JCL has collaborated with leading jazz artists, including their concerts in 2001 with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow.

The group's recording, "A Mingus Among Us," was described as "over 70 minutes of sweet, sophisticated jazz classics" in ICON magazine, and River Cities Reader commented that "JCL, the top big band for the University of Iowa School of Music, captures the power of Mingus' music wonderfully."

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. Among them, these diverse ensembles range from combos to big bands and differs in stylistic formats from experimental compositions to traditional repertoires.

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. For more information on Rapson, see

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

OTHER INFORMATION: Alumni participating in the Jazz Alumni All Stars concert are listed below, with the years of their attendance at the UI and their current location or professional affiliation:


Rod Pierson (1981-84), Coralville

Mike Giles (1995-99), Iowa State University

Bob Thompson, Iowa City

Marla Feeney (1991-95), Kennesaw, Ga.

John DeSalme, Warrenton, Va.

Eddie McKinley (1984-88), Muscatine High School

Chris Merz (1982-87), director of jazz studies, University of Northern Iowa

Paul Scea (1982-87), director of jazz studies and associate director of world music, West Virginia University

Anibal Rojas (1987-92), Royersford, Penn.


Billy Bergren (1981-85), lead trumpet, Des Moines Big Band

Jason Plosch (1991-95), lead trumpet, U.S. Air Force Band of Flight, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio

Brent Sandy, current UI jazz faculty

Steve Wright (1965-68, 1972), director of jazz, Gustavus Adophus College

Jim Oatts, co-founder of Des Moines Big Band

Randy Karon (1980-84), Barrington High School, Barrington, Ill.

Steve Stickney (1977-81, 1985), Linn-Mar High School, Marion, Iowa


Rich Medd (1983-87), Coralville

Paul Bridson (1981-86), Ankeny

Bret Zvacek     (1980-84), director of jazz studies, Crane School of Music, State University of New York, Potsdam

Chuck Comella (1977-82), Moline, Ill.

Tom Nelson (1981-86, 93-95), West Branch

Casey Thomas (2005-06), Iowa City


Rafael Dos Santos (1992-1997), Sao Paulo State University of Campinas, Brazil

Tim Daugherty (1977-81), Cedar Rapids

Evan Mazunik (1998-2004), Brooklyn, N.Y.


Steve Grismore, current UI jazz faculty

Andy Parrott (1991-95), Iowa City


Mark Urness (2002-03), Lawrence University

Pat Williams (1991-95), Berwyn, Ill.

Anton Hatwich (1995-99), Chicago

Drums, Percussion and Vibes:

Eric Thompson (1990-95), Long Island, New York

John Willmarth (1998-2000), University of Kentucky

Jim Dreier (1993-95), current UI jazz faculty

Marc Gratama (1977-81), Chicago

Paul Cunliffe, UI Dance Department

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; cell: 319-541-2846;

PROGRAM CONTACT: John Rapson, 319-335-1662;