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JCI jazz academy faculty

Our faculty are highly qualified graduates of conservatories and schools of music. They are chosen for their teaching ability, their expertise as jazz musicians on their instrument, their passion for artistry, and their personal integrity.


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TRUMPET: BENJE DANEMAN

MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC - Master of Music, Jazz Performance

Jazz trumpeter, Benje Daneman, got his start professionally in 2007 on a national tour with The Doc Severinsen Big Band and has since performed as a sideman and leader at prestigious venues across the nation including The Kennedy Center, The Iridium Jazz Club, Festival of New Trumpet Music, and Baryshnikov Arts Center. An alumnus of Manhattan School of Music, Western Michigan University and The Henry Mancini Institute (Los Angeles, CA), Daneman is also a passionate music educator and has worked as a teaching artist with The New York Pops, Western Michigan University's SEMINAR, and Afro-Latin Jazz Alliance (NYC). He has co-founded and directed multiple educational programs including The Jazz & Creative Institute, Kalamazoo Trumpet Workshop, and JazzStart Summer Jazz Workshop. Currently, he directs and leads the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra and oversees the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Lab Band, through Jazz & Creative Institute in partnership with Western Michigan University.

 
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SAXOPHONE, Clarinet, Flute: Seth Ebersole

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY - Master of Music, Jazz Performance

Seth Ebersole is a saxophonist and educator hailing from the Philadelphia area. He has shared the stage and recorded with with some of the finest musicians in jazz including Terell Stafford, Rodney Whitaker, Michael Dease, Dick Oatts, Etienne Charles and many others. A graduate of the Michigan State University College of Music as well as the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University, Seth recently joined the faculty of the Saginaw Valley State University Department of Music where he works as Instructor of Jazz Ensemble and Improvisation. Seth maintains a busy work schedule teaching and performing both jazz and commercial music.

 
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TROMBONE, EUPHONIUM, TUBA: ALTIN SENCALAR

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY - Master of Music, Jazz Performance (2019)

Between composing original music, educating the next generation, recording albums, and performing
for sold out venues, Altin Sencalar remains in high demand. Highlighted performances include being featured as a guest artist with the US Army Blues, opening for the OJs and Chaka Khan, and playing at the Music for All festival as a Yamaha performing artist.
Altin has received prizes for national and international competitions such as the American Trombone
Workshop, the International Trombone Association, and Downbeat Magazine's Student Music Awards. As an educator, Altin is regularly selected as a competition judge, workshop clinician, and low brass
instructor. His private students boast a track record of 100% placement in their All-Region competitions.
In addition to the release of his original debut album, "Introducing Altin Sencalar", his salsa arrangements have been featured in festivals and recordings across the country. Altin graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor's degree in Jazz Studies. He now
serves as the Jazz Studies graduate assistant to Michael Dease and Rodney Whitaker at Michigan State
University. Altin proudly endorses Giddings mouthpieces, Earasers earplugs, and represents Yamaha as a
performing artist.

 
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VOICE, SONGWRITING: Ashley daneman

MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC - Master of Music, Jazz Performance

Ashley Daneman is a singer and songwriter who goes deep with her blend of jazz and modern folk. Daneman grew up in Toledo, Ohio studying classical voice and performing in musicals before turning to jazz and songwriting. Her latest release, critically acclaimed “Beauty Indestructible,” is available on iTunes and Bandcamp. Selected by DownBeat Magazine as “Editor’s Pick,” her music draws comparisons to Becca Stevens, Laura Nyro, and even Stephen Sondheim. Daneman has been performing around the US for the last 15 years in several large cities, including her old hometown of New York City. She earned her master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music under the guidance of Peter Eldridge, Kate McGarry, and Theo Bleckman. Daneman also was a resident artist at The Kennedy Center’s Betty Carter’s JazzAhead and The Banff Centre’s Jazz and Creative Workshop in Alberta, Canada. She's Level II Certified in Somatic Voicework(tm) - The Lovetri Method and has been teaching voice for over 10 years.

 
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piano: Rufus Ferguson

WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY - Master of Music, Jazz Performance

Rufus Ferguson is a jazz pianist who earned degrees from Western Michigan University under the mentorship of Jeremy Siskind and Matthew Fries. During his tenure at WMU he has studied with artists such as Scott Cowan, Andrew Rathbun, Edward Simon, and Frank Carlberg. Rufus got his start studying classical piano at the age of 5. He became a gospel church organist at a young age and later began playing jazz piano at age 13. His dedication to being equally well-versed in multiple genres of music has afforded him many unique opportunities such as playing with Grammy-nominated and award-winning artists and groups of all genres. Rufus is an experienced performer, arranger, composer and teacher, specifically in the jazz genre. His arrangements have most recently been presented by his 9-piece ensemble at the 2018 Gilmore Keyboard Festival. Rufus has performed at several festivals such as the Notre Dame Jazz Festival, Elmhurst Jazz Festival, Flint Jazz Festival and the Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference in Louisville, KY. He has also taught at many jazz camps including the Keith Hall Summer Drum Intensive in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Show Choir Camps of America at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. Rufus has served as class piano instructor at Western Michigan University where he also directed the University Jazz Lab Band and is currently piano instructor for the Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo, Crescendo Academy of Music, Kalamazoo Academy of Rock and Gilmore Education Department. He is also the Jazz Band Director at Portage Northern High School and rhythm section coach for the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra.

 
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GUITAR: NATHAN BORTON

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY - Master of Music, Jazz Performance (2019)

Nathan Borton spent the younger part of his childhood moving around the country, but around middle school he settled in Wichita, Kansas, and developed a passion for the guitar. Starting out playing rock music, he formed his first band at the age of 14, Crestfallen, which recorded and released an EP through The Quarry Studios. In 2011, he attended Friends University, under the direction of Lisa Hittle, studying Jazz guitar with Randy Zellers. During his tenure there he co-founded the band Commonfolk, a pop/folk group, recording two albums as their guitarist. As a jazz guitarist he has preformed with names such as Cyrus Chestnut, Brad Leali, Tanya Darby, and Jerry Hahn. In 2014, he was accepted into the Jazz program at Berklee College of Music. There he studied under jazz greats such as David Gilmore, Tia Fuller, Peter Bernstein, and the guitar chair Larry Baione. Early on in Nathan's career he has kept a studio of guitar students. Nathan is an avid educator because of his passion to teach and mentor the next generation of musicians. As a teacher, Nathan is striving to motivate musicians who are passionate about music. He is constantly honing his ability to mentor the future generations. Currently, Nathan is a Teaching Assistant at Michigan State University, under the direction of Rodney Whitaker, pursuing a Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies. There he is studying guitar under the tutelage of the great Randy Napoleon.

 
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BASS: ANDY PECK

UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN - Master of Music, Improvisation

Originally from the Midwest, Andy studied bass at the New England Conservatory with Cecil McBee and John Lockwood and more recently, with Robert Hurst. After beginning serious musical training mainly in French horn at the Interlochen Arts Academy, playing bass and performing improvised music became a main interest. With the help of Benje Daneman and others in the West Michigan jazz scene, Andy began playing gigs in his late teens. Only a few years later, a stint in the US Air Force bands took him traveling and performing throughout much of the US, Europe and Asia. During this time, Andy had the good fortune to perform with Eddie Daniels, Kristen Korb, Brian Lynch, Donny McCaslin, Kendrick Scott and others. While finishing graduate school, Andy directed the Campus Jazz big band and small ensembles, plus the Michigan Youth Jazz program at University of Michigan.

 
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DRUMS: MADISON GEORGE

WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY - Bachelors of Music, Jazz Performance (2019)

Madison George is a drummer who performs throughout the Midwest area. He attends Western Michigan University majoring in jazz studies, and studies with
Keith Hall. His versatility has allowed him to play in a variety of settings, such as jazz bands, rock bands, musical productions, and everything in between. He has performed with artists of many genres, such as jazz artists Terell Stafford, Chico Pinhiero, Deborah Brown, Peter Eldridge, Edward Simon, Andrew Rathbun, Matthew Fries, Tom Knific, Jeremy Siskind, Max Colley III, Kevin Jones, Steve Talaga, and Chris Lawrence. At WMU, he has been a member of Gold Company, Jazz Orchestra, and the Advanced Jazz Ensemble. He has also worked with many pop/rock artists, such as American Idol alum Matt Giraud, indie rock band Michigander, singer Yolonda Lavender, and singer/songwriter Benjamin James. Aside from performing, Madison has also taught private lessons as well as been a faculty member at the Keith Hall Summer Drum Intensive. You can catch him performing with electronic jazz/hip-hop quintet Lushh and Grand Rapids-based funk band The Hip Pocket, as well as other various acts.

 
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PERCUSSION: KEVIN JONES

Kevin Jones is a percussionist, band leader, producer, educator. A native of Englewood, New Jersey, Kevin grew up in a household immersed in jazz, soul, gospel and blues along with the pop and R&B legends of the times. The arts of all types were nurtured in the Jones household and piano lessons were a requirement, not an elective. Jones traces his percussion expertise to the age-old ‘academy of the streets.’ Over the years Kevin has evolved an increasingly comprehensive approach to percussion, commanding respect from artists such as the Isley Brothers, Whitney Houston, Winard Harper, and Reggie Workman. At age 10 began Kevin showing interest in playing hand drums and at 18, Kevin recorded with alto saxophonist Charles McPherson. Kevin has performed and recorded with Archie Shepp, toured with The Isley Brothers for 13 years and 9 recordings, toured for 4 years with Whitney Houston. Kevin studied with Reggie Workman, Winard Harper, Randy Weston and Luisito Quintero. In 1999, Kevin started to focus on teaching as a passion by working with The Bronx Arts Ensemble, Arts Horizons and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Rhythm Road Jazz Ambassador's project. During his career he has had the opportunity to share the stage or recorded alongside of Hilton Ruiz, Walter Bishop Jr., Harold Vick, Grady Tate, Frank Wess, Tommy Turentine, Ernie Wilkins, Jamil Nasser, Ray Copeland, Joey DeFrancesco, Pat Martino, Jim Rotondi, Eric Alexander, Vince Ector, Papa John DeFrancesco, Melvin Sparks, Art Blakey Jr., John Benitez, Bebe and Cece Winans, Jermaine Jackson, Angela Winbush, Billy Hart, Frank Lacy, Luis Perdomo, Alex Blake, Randy Weston, Winard Harper, Phillip Harper, Jimmy Owens, Billy Harper, Reggie Workman, Steve Turre, Michael Dease and Bob DeVos. Since 1999, Kevin has recorded multiple albums and toured internationally with his own band Tenth World, which was signed to a contract with Motema Music. They produced another Live CD simply called “Tenth World - Live”. Kevin continues to teach children in underserved communities; a passion in which he relentlessly pursues.