Jazz composer, arranger, and conductor David Berger is internationally recognized as a leading authority on the music of Duke Ellington and the swing era. Conductor and arranger for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra from 1988 through 1994, Mr. Berger has transcribed more than 700 full scores of classic recordings, including nearly 500 works by Duke Ellington and his collaborator, Billy Strayhorn. In 1996, he teamed with choreographer Donald Byrd to create The Harlem Nutcracker, a full-length dance piece that expands on Tchaikovsky's classic ballet with new jazz arrangements and interpretations from Ellington and Strayhorn's 1960 version of The Nutcracker Suite. A 15-piece band, known as "The Sultans of Swing," was assembled to play this show, and continues to record and play Mr. Berger's music for listeners and swing dancers all over the U.S. and Europe. Mr. Berger has written music for television, Broadway shows including Sophisticated Ladies, films including The Cotton Club and Brighton Beach Memoirs, and dozens of singers, bands, orchestras and dance companies. His jazz compositions, arrangements and transcriptions are played by hundreds of bands every day all over the world. A seven-time recipient of National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, Mr. Berger resides in New York City, where he teaches at the Juilliard School. Mr. Berger has transcribed the majority of the Essentially Ellington charts, conducted workshops, and annually serves as a judge at the Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival.
One of the most versatile and sought-after clinicians in jazz education, Ronald Carter is Professor of Music at Northern Illinois University (NIU) and Director of its Jazz Studies program. In addition to ten years as jazz chairman for the Illinois Music Educators’ Association, Mr. Carter has served as a guest conductor, artist, clinician, and adjudicator for numerous universities, colleges, and high schools. Among his honors and awards are NIU Board of Trustees Professorship 2009, DownBeat magazine’s Jazz Educators’ Hall of Fame, The Woody Herman Music Award, the 1991 Milken Foundation National Distinguished Educator Award, Southern Illinois University’s Excellence in Teaching Award, and the St. Louis American Newspaper’s Excellence in Teaching Award. Mr. Carter is an artist/clinician for renowned instrument maker Conn/Selmer, Inc. He has been involved with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program since 1997, leading in-school workshops, judging Competition entry recordings, and serving as an educational consultant and as the Director of the Band Director Academy.
Executive Director of The Jazz Museum in Harlem, Loren Schoenberg is a faculty member of The Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies, and Program Director of Jazz Aspen Snowmass. He has conducted the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO), as well as The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and The American Jazz Orchestra. Mr. Schoenberg has played saxophone with Benny Carter, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Heath, Buck Clayton, and the LCJO, and served as musical director for Bobby Short. He has also received GRAMMY® awards for best album notes in 1994 and 2004. Mr. Schoenberg oversaw the Benny Goodman Archives at Yale University, where he produced a ten-CD release of previously unissued Goodman recordings. He frequently leads JALC educational programs, and annually serves as one of the screening judges for Essentially Ellington. Mr. Schoenberg has been published widely, and his book The NPR Guide to Jazz (Berkley Publishing Group) was released in 2003.
One of the most dynamic young trumpeters on the jazz scene today, Terell Stafford has performed as an integral part of groups led by Cedar Walton, Herbie Mann, Kenny Barron, and Matt Wilson, as well as with many of the New York-based big bands: Jon Faddis' Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, The Mingus Big Band, and the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. His albums as leader, including Centripedal Force (Candid), Fields of Gold (Nagel Heyer), and New Beginnings (Max Jazz), have been met with tremendous critical and popular acclaim. His latest CD, This Side of Strayhorn, was released in April 2011 on the Max Jazz label. In addition to his work as a performer, Mr. Stafford maintains a high profile in jazz education. He is currently full-time Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, and is on the faculty of the prestigious Vail Foundation in Colorado. He also appears as a featured artist, soloist and lecturer at high schools and universities throughout the country. Mr. Stafford has participated as a clinician and mentor for Essentially Ellington, and served on the Band Director Academy faculty for five years.
Reginald Thomas can be seen fronting his own groups (Mardra/Reggie Thomas Ensemble; OGD) on both piano and Hammond organ, and as a sideman with great artists including Hamiet Blueitt, Ann Hampton Callaway, and the Carl Allen/Rodney Whitaker Ensemble. Most recently he was the accompanist for the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Reggie continues to appear as a guest artist at collegiate jazz festivals around the country including Lawrence University, the University of South Florida, and Texas Tech University. He has also performed internationally in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Milan, Italy; Warsaw and Poznan, Poland; Senegal, West Africa; and London, England. Recordings include work with Clay Jenkins, Kim Richmond, and Clark Terry/Mike Vax, as well as his own recordings Fade to Blue with wife Mardra (MaxJazz), Standard Time (Victoria) and 4 (Jazz Compass). He has been awarded the Excellence in the Arts award from the Greater St. Louis Arts and Education Council and was named in the Riverfront Times 2005 "Best of St. Louis" issue as Best Jazz Artist. After almost 20 years as professor of music at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Professor Thomas joined the faculty of Michigan State University in the fall of 2011. He is a consultant/clinician for Jazz at Lincoln Center, working with the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program and Band Director Academy, and has served on several summer jazz faculties across the country and abroad, including the International Association for Jazz Educators Teacher Training Institute; the Birch Creek Music Center; the Eastman School of Music Summer Jazz Camp; Summer Jazz Academy in Chodziez, Poland, and the Barbican Center in London. He remains an active clinician/adjudicator at colleges throughout the country and at conventions of the International Association for Jazz Educators (IAJE) and its successor, the Jazz Education Network (JEN). Thomas has directed All State Jazz Bands, Combos and Jazz Choirs in Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, South Dakota and Tennessee and directed the first ever Missouri All-College Jazz Band.
Professor and Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University, Rodney Whitaker is one of the leading performers and teachers of jazz double bass in the United States. He was a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for many years, and received national recognition performing with the Terence Blanchard Quintet. Whitaker has toured internationally as a featured performer with the Roy Hargrove Quintet, and has played on more than 150 recordings, from film to compact discs. He also composed the score for the film China, directed by Jeff Wray, which aired on PBS in 2003. A proven and committed jazz educator, Whitaker has presented numerous master classes around the world at locations such as Osaka College of Music, Kunitachi College of Music, Music For All, Duke University, International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) conferences, Howard University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, the New School (NY), and Lincoln Center. In addition, he is the Artistic Director of the Michigan State University Professors of Jazz, the Detroit Civic Jazz Ensembles and a Mack Avenue recording artist. Whitaker has served on the faculties of University of Michigan and Juilliard Institute of Jazz.