Jazz Studies Coordinator
MSU Jazz Ensemble/Jazz Piano
Dr. Jeffrey Kunkel (D.Ed., Penn State University; M.M., New England Conservatory; B.S., Penn State University) is Coordinator of Jazz Studies and Director of the MSU Jazz Ensemble. Jeff previously served as the Associate Director for Faculty of the Cali School, and as Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Education. Jeff won the prestigious New Jersey Jazz Education Achievement Award in 2008. His personal musical endeavors focus on the unique music styles of Brazil. He has presented workshops and classes at the Federal University of Parana (Curitiba), UNIRIO (Rio de Janeiro), and has performed for several years at TribOz, a jazz club in the Lapa entertainment district. He released his first solo recording, Meu Coração Brasileiro (Delira Música) in 2013. The CD was recorded in Rio with Mauro Senise (flute/sax), Vika Barcellos (vocals), Alex Rocha (bass), Haroldo Mauro (drums and co-producer), José Arimatea (trumpet), and Mariana Bernardes (vocals), with lyrics being contributed by Ms. Barcellos, Fernando Corona, and MSU colleague Holli Ross. A long time board member and four term president of the New Jersey Association for Jazz Education, Jeff frequently appears as a clinician and adjudicator, and directed the 2010 New Jersey All State Jazz Ensemble, along with numerous region jazz ensembles.
Guitarist Stephen Benson is a freelance performer who has remained active on the studio, jazz and broadway scene for twenty years. He holds a Bachelor of Music from the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, CT, and a Masters from Manhattan School of Music. He has taught at Hartt School of Music and the Turtle Bay Music School in New York. Benson toured Europe as a member of the Giora Feidman Trio, performed at the Carnevale in Venice, Italy, for two years and at the Grand Canyon Music Festival in Arizona. He has worked extensively on Broadway in such shows as The Lion King, 42nd Street, and Wicked. He performs many styles of jazz from bebop to fusion to blues and R & B and has worked with artists including Phoebe Snow, John Sebastian and Evelyn Blakey.
Main Office: 973-655-7212
Pianist David Cook is a versatile bandleader, musical director and sideman in the world of jazz and beyond. His albums Pathway and Scenic Design (Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records) showcase his writing for trio and quintet, featuring Ben Wendel and Kendrick Scott. His work as the musical director and keyboardist for 10-time Grammy Award winner Taylor Swift has him playing for sellout crowds in the world’s biggest venues, with guest performances from Mick Jagger, James Taylor, Mary J. Blige and many more. He has also toured recently with singers Lizz Wright, Shayna Steele, Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, drummer Mark Guiliana and guitarist Greg Howe. Television appearances include Super Bowl XXXV, the Grammy Awards, the Winter Olympics, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, the Tonight Show, Today Show and Good Morning America. Born in to a musical family from Columbus, Ohio, David graduated from the University of Michigan with a BMA in jazz piano where he studied with Ellen Rowe, Andrew Bishop and Gerald Cleaver.
Jazz Drum Set / Small Ensembles
Main Office: 973-655-7212
Visiting percussion specialist Steve Johns studied with master drummers Alan Dawson and Bob Gullotti and attended the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied classical percussion with Fred Buda and Vic Firth. He moved to New York in 1982. He has worked, recorded and collaborated with Donald Byrd, Nat Adderley, Eddie Henderson, the Count Basie Orchestra under Frank Foster, the Vanguard Orchestra, Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabakin Big Band, Benny Carter, Phil Woods, Illinois Jacquet, Michael Brecker, Stanley Turentine, Slide Hampton, Kenny Burrell, and many others. Steve was the drummer for NPR's Billy Taylor's Jazz at The Kennedy Center in which he recorded 75 shows with guest including Wynton Marsalis, Nancy Wilson, Joe Lavano, Arturo Sandoval, Ray Barreto, Milt Jackson, Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, Grover Washngon, Gary Burton, and Harry Sweet Edison. Mr. Johns's recordings include Ceremony on Malaco with saxophonist Peter Brainin (Cats Paw Records) and No Saints/No Sinners (Playscape Records). As well as having a busy performance schedule, Mr. Johns has taught at the Vermont Jazz Center, the Jazz In July Program at the University of Massachusetts, the Thelonius Monk Institute in Aspen Colorado and Williams College in Massachusetts.
Throughout his career, Tony Kadleck has been praised as a highly effective sideman, who has lent his hand to numerous musical activities. He is currently one of the most sought-after trumpet players in the New York area. While attending the New England Conservatory in Boston, Kadleck studied both classical and jazz music, a task that would later benefit him, as he went on to perform and record with the Boston Pops Orchestra. In 1986, Tony was asked to join the trumpet section of the Buddy Rich Band, and later that year, decided to move to New York. Tony has recorded with several artists, including Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Celine Dion, and Tony Bennett. Kadleck also spends time playing a wide variety of live concerts, having performed with Natalie Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, and most recently Steely Dan. Tony is currently a member of many organizations including John Pizzarelli's "Swing Seven", the Ron Carter Great Big Band, John Fedchock's NY Big Band, the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, and the New York Pops Orchestra. He can also be heard on broadway in Disney’s Aladdin.
Jazz Saxophone / Small Ensembles
Main Office: 973-655-7212
Jazz Bass / Redhawk Jazz Band / Small Ensemble
Main Office: 973-655-7212
Bassist Bill Moring is a versatile jazz artist whose scope includes the big bands of legends Count Basie and Woody Herman, jammin' jazz/funk and beyond with the Dave Stryker/Steve Slagle quartet or stretching harmonic and rhythmic boundaries with John Hart and Chris Potter. He attended Indiana State University while also playing in cellist Hank Roberts group, gigging around Indianapolis and Cincinnati and studying with local pianists Claude Sifferlen and Steve Allee. In 1980 he began working with John Von Ohlen's big band, playing at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis, and recording a live record that was Grammy nominated. he also played locally with Dizzy Gillespie, Slide Hampton, and Cal Collins. After moving to New York City in 1984 Bill worked with drummer Mel Lewis. He toured with Woody Herman's Thundering Herd and received a National Endowment for the Arts Grant to study with Rufus Reid. He continued his studies with the legendary Homer Mensch. In 1987, Bill toured the world with the Count Basie Orchestra. Other big band experiences include the Village Vanguard Orchestra and the Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabakin Jazz Orchestra. He has played with renowned singers such as Joe Williams, Mel Tormé and Susannah McCorkle, and with jazz legends Frank Foster, AI Cohn, Clark Terry, Mickey Roker, Tommy Flanagan, Junior Cook, Roland Hanna and Ray Barretto. He has also performed and/or recorded with many contemporary artists including John Abercrombie, Gary Bartz, Manolo Badrena, Larry Coryell, Vic Juris, Dave Kikoski, Billy Hart, John Hart, Eddie Henderson, Joe Locke, Mulgrew Miller, Chris Potter, Dom Salvador, Dave Stryker, and James Williams.
Chris Opperman has worked in the major music industry for over a decade at companies including GSO Business Management, Universal Music Publishing Group, and Universal Music Group, specializing in music publishing and record company operations and is a strong advocate for artist and songwriter rights. In addition, he also runs his independent record label Purple Cow Records through which he produces and releases his own compositions, including 2010's The Lionheart, which is available on iTunes and other digital outlets. Opperman also played piano on Steve Vai's Grammy-nominated compositions Lotus Feet and The Attitude Song and Opperman's orchestration of Vai's For the Love of God has over 8.25 million views on YouTube. Opperman received his B.M. from Berklee College of Music (Music Business) and his M.A. from Montclair State University (Music Composition). In 2009, the MSU Symphony Orchestra performed his orchestral tone poem Ariadne.
Pianist Oscar Perez, a New York City native, has shared the stage with jazz legends Bunky Green, George Russell, and Curtis Fuller. Studying at the University of North Florida, New England Conservatory and Aaron Copland School of Music, he served under the guidance of Danilo Perez and Sir Roland Hanna, respectively. Since moving back to New York, he has played in the musical groups of Phoebe Snow, Wycliffe Gordon, Melissa Walker, Christian McBride, , Dave Stryker, Steve Turre and Eddie Allen. Oscar is also faculty for Jazz House Kids based in Montclair and has been an educator through Carnegie Hall, the Kupferberg Center at Queens College and Jazz at Lincoln Center. He is the recipient of the 2006 ASCAP/IAJE Commission in honor of Billy Strayhorn. Oscar’s group featuring Antonio Hart premiered the work at the 2007 International Association of Jazz Education Convention. His critically acclaimed CD Afropean Affair, is the result of a New Works Grant by Chamber Music America for his septet Oscar Perez Nuevo Comienzo. He recently placed 2nd in the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition. His latest endeavor, Prepare a Place for Me, features Bruce Williams and is available through all media outlets.
Holli Ross has performed in top clubs from New Orleans’ Snug Harbor to New York’s Blue Note. She has recorded extensively with various vocal ensembles that have led to appearances in Germany, France, and Japan as well as the Monterey Jazz Festival and the JVC Jazz Festival. Holli is a published lyricist with ASCAP and GEMA. Her songs have been recorded by jazz artists, Janice Seigel from Manhattan Transfer, Mark Murphy, Meredith D’Ambrosio and Carmen Bradford of the Count Basie Orchestra. Holli has recorded with Jon Faddis, Claudio Roditi, Romero Lumbambo, Eddie Monteiro, Randy Sandke, Bob MIntzer, and Wolfgang Lackerschmid. Most notably, Holli has recorded several CDs with her female vocal trio String Of Pearls. Holli conducts clinics nationally and abroad and teaches extensively in the New York area, most notably at Hofstra University, Montclair State University, and Mannes College of Music. She is also a member and has performed for the International Association of Jazz Educators.
Whether you’ve heard guitarist Dave Stryker fronting his own group or as a featured sideman with Stanley Turrentine, Jack McDuff, and Kevin Mahogany, you know why Gary Giddins in the Village Voice calls him “one of the most distinctive guitarists to come along in recent years.” He was voted one of the Top Ten Guitarists in the 2001 Critics and Readers Poll of Downbeat Magazine, and was elected as a Rising Star for the 5th time in the 2008 Downbeat Critics Poll. A native of Nebraska, Stryker moved to New York City in 1980, and toured with organist Jack McDuff’s group (1984-85). From 1986 to 1995, he performed with tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine at major venues throughout the world. He has also performed with Freddie Hubbard, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Smith, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Eliane Elias, Joe Lovano and many others. Dave currently performs with the Stryker/Slagle Band (with saxophonist Steve Slagle), Dave Stryker Organ Trio and his Blue to the Bone Band. He has recorded and published over 130 of his compositions, recorded 20 CD’s under his own name and recorded as a sideman on over 50 others. He has performed all over the world at all the great Jazz Festivals and concert halls including Carnegie Hall, the Monterey Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, and the JVC Jazz Festival. He has taught at the Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop, Litchfield Jazz Camp, Veneto/New School Jazz Workshop in Italy, and the Outreach Jazz Workshop in Austria. He is the author of Dave Stryker’s Jazz Guitar Improvisation Method.