By ROB W. ANDERSON
Acclaimed trombonist Wycliffe Gordon has played in venues around the world, but he felt right at home during a recent visit to Tahlequah.
Gordon was the featured trombonist recently at the 46th annual Northeastern State University Green Country Jazz Festival, held Sunday and Monday.
Having held teaching positions at Juilliard School of Music, Michigan State University and now as a member of the Jazz Arts Program at Manhattan School of Music, Gordon is considered to be one of the country’s foremost educators of music.
His late father was a classical pianist and teacher who introduced Gordon to music. Gordon’s passion for playing trombone was discovered when an older brother began playing the brass instrument in junior high school.
Gordon was born in 1967 in Waynesboro, Ga., which is also known as the Bird Dog Capital of the World. He found a taste of home when he arrived here.
“I’m having a great time in this small town. I wish I could stay here two or three weeks to be away from the rat race in New York,” he said. “This reminds me of where I’m from, back in Georgia.”
Gordon, who is the 2012 Jazz Journalists Association Award Trombonist of the Year, performed as a part of the ninth annual Judges Jam, held Sunday night at the NSU Jazz Lab. He was part of an all-star jazz combo that featured pianist Dr. Robert Larson of the Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia; guitarist Dr. James Greeson of the University of Arkansas Department of Music; and three NSU jazz musicians and instructors: drummer/percussionist Jared Johnson, bassist Mikel Combs ,and saxonphonist/woodwin doubler Dr. Tommy Poole.
Poole is the director of jazz studies and an assistant professor of music at NSU. He also performed with the NSU Jazz Ensemble at the Center of the Performing Arts on Monday.
Gordon does a lot of traveling to elementary, high school and college campuses to teach and share his love of music. He has also represented jazz music in other ways, like serving as musical ambassador for the U.S. State Department on a trip to South Africa in 2006.
“I enjoy the interaction with the music departments and the students who are going to be playing,” said Gordon. “They’re going to be my colleagues in a few years, and it’s great to be able to reach some of the upcoming players this way.”
Gordon believes it’s important for students to get hands-on experience.
“I remember what that did for me when Wynton Marsalis came to my university my sophomore year to teach a master class,” said Gordon. “I mean, there were a series of events that happened, but if that event had never taken place - that’s one of the reasons I’m in the position I am now. He was only scheduled to do a lecture and not even perform. That’s where he heard me play, and he asked for my number. It’s important to be in touch with the music community at-large.”
Aside from the evening gig, Gordon taught a master class and critiqued the performances of several high school jazz bands that played during the day on Monday. Jazz festivals like NSU’s offer a chance for students of jazz music to play for and receive feedback from professional musicians like Gordon.
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