NJYS announces inaugural artist-in-residence program with award-winning jazz musician Dennis Mackrel

Dennis Mackrel // Photo Courtesy of Alice Hamlet

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ — Dennis Mackrel, assistant chairperson and professor of jazz studies at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, will teach a series of free in-person clinics at the New Jersey Youth Symphony. The program will run from October to April 2022.

The NJYS artist-in-residence program is part of the organization’s mission to train and foster the next generation of young jazz musicians and offer accessible, high-quality performing arts education that sparks personal growth and builds inclusive communities. While in residence, Mackrel will lead six clinics for high school and college jazz students, as well as jazz educators, on topics including concert preparation, jazz history, jazz styles and improvisation. Launching with Mackrel are newly appointed Director of NJYS Jazz and Jazz Orchestra Dion Tucker, composer and trombonist, and Director of NJYS Big Band Gregory Williams, longtime Garden State educator and bassist. NJYS intends to expand the division of study and invite additional artists to continue to develop the art of jazz within its ensemble and orchestral program.

Said Mackrel, “Although I’ve been blessed to work with some of the greatest musicians in jazz, I’ve learned that there is no greater blessing than to be surrounded by young musicians with a genuine desire to learn. To be given the opportunity to help them in any way is as much a privilege as it is an awesome responsibility, one that I’m grateful to Artistic Director Helen H. Cha-Pyo and the New Jersey Youth Symphony for giving me.”

Said Cha-Pyo, “We are extremely excited to welcome our first artist-in-residence, Dennis Mackrel, to the New Jersey Youth Symphony. His expertise and experience will help elevate our young musicians’ understanding of jazz to a new level, and they are extremely lucky to be learning from a highly respected performer, composer and educator. These six Sunday afternoons will be a rare opportunity for any local jazz educators and performers to come and observe Dennis working with our students in big-band rehearsals, as well as sectionals and combo sessions.”

As artist-in-residence, Mackrel will work with NJYS’ young jazz students in six monthly clinics, from October to April. These clinics are free and open to New Jersey jazz students and educators to attend and observe. Mask-wearing and proof of full vaccination required at the door. For more information, visit www.njys.org.

Mackrel is a noted jazz drummer and highly respected composer/arranger and conductor whose work has been recorded and performed by the Count Basie Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band, WDR Radio Big Band in Germany, Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw in Holland, Kluvers Big Band in Denmark and the McCoy Tyner Big Band, whose Grammy-winning CDs include Mackrel’s arrangements.

Mackrel has won numerous awards, including Who’s Who in Music, a National Endowment for the Arts grant for composition and Outstanding Alumni from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is an experienced jazz educator who conducts master classes, seminars and workshops throughout Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States.