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Skidmore Jazz Institute

Institute Faculty 2018

Dennis Mackrel














Dennis Mackrel

Click the name of each faculty member to jump to their full bio.

Former Institute faculty members can be seen here.

Todd Coolman Director           John Nazarenko Avid ProTools Workshop
Bruce Barth Piano & Combo Leader Dick Oatts Saxophone & Combo Leader
Mark Beaubriand Academic Advisor & Saxophone Jeb Patton Piano & Combo Leader
Steve Davis Trombone & Combo Leader Jim Snidero Saxophone & Combo Leader
Michael Dease Trombone & Combo Leader Dave Stryker Guitar & Combo Leader
Robert Halek Drums, Combo & Administration Ray Vega Trumpet & Combo Leader
Ingrid Jensen Trumpet & Combo Leader Doug Weiss  Bass & Combo Leader
Vic Juris Guitar & Combo Leader Matt Wilson Drums & Combo Leader
Dennis Mackrel Drums & Combo Leader David Wong Bass &  Combo Leader

Todd Coolman - Director

Todd Coolman

Grammy Award-winning bassist and educator, Coolman has performed and recorded with top jazz artists such as Horace Silver, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Benny Golson, Art Farmer, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman, Slide Hampton, Jon Faddis and James Moody. A Professor of Music at SUNY Purchase, he is a recipient of SUNY’s Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and holds a Ph.D. from New York University. Coolman is also on the faculty at his alma mater, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and works worldwide as a clinician and lecturer. His recordings include Collectables with his trio Trifecta (Bill Cunliffe and Dennis Mackrel), Our Delight, Perfect Strangers, and 4B, the last recording of James Moody and winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.  



Bruce Barth - Piano & Combo Leader

Bruce Barth

Jazz pianist and composer Bruce Barth has performed on over one hundred recordings and movie soundtracks, including fourteen as a leader. He is equally at home playing solo piano (American Landscape on Satchmo Jazz Records), leading an all-star septet (East and West on MaxJazz), and composing for a variety of ensembles.  His trio has recorded live at the legendary Village Vanguard in New York City, and his duo recording with saxophonist Steve Wilson, Home, was chosen by Down Beat magazine as one of the best recordings of 2010. His current CD is Daybreak, on the Savant label. Originally from Pasadena, California, Barth arrived on the New York jazz scene in 1988, and started working in the bands of Stanley Turrentine and Terence Blanchard. While in Blanchard’s band, Barth recorded his first two CD’s as a leader, In Focus and Morning Call for the Enja label; both were chosen for the New York Times’ top ten lists. He has had extended collaborations with Terell Stafford, Steve Wilson, Luciana Souza, Steve Nelson, and Tony Bennett and performed with James Moody, Phil Woods, Freddie Hubbard, Tom Harrell, Branford Marsalis, Art Farmer, and the Mingus Big Band. Barth has performed in the United States, Europe, Japan and given master classes around the globe. He is currently on the faculty at Temple University and Columbia University. 

Mark Beaubriand - Academic Advisor & Saxophone

A graduate of the University of Miami with a master's degree in jazz pedagogy, Mark Beaubriand is the former chair of the Music Department and director of band and jazz band at Saratoga Springs High School. Under his direction, the Saratoga Springs High School Jazz Ensemble won many New York State and national awards and commissioned works by Frank Mantooth, Jeff Jarvis, and Jim Snidero. Beaubriand is a frequent performer in the northeast and has appeared with the Manhattan Transfer, New York Voices, Johnny Mathis, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Liberace, and Bobby Vinton.

Steve Davis - Trombone & Combo Leader

Steve Davis

Steve Davis is widely regarded as one of today’s leading improvisers on the trombone. His lyrical, hard-swinging style first gained him broad recognition during the 1990’s while working with the bands of jazz legends Art Blakey, Jackie McLean, Chick Corea’s Origin and the cooperative sextet, One For All. Davis has appeared in Downbeat Magazine’s Reader’s and Critic’s Polls numerous times and was recently nominated by The JJA four years in a row as Trombonist of the Year. His most recent recordings For Real and Gettin’ It Done (Positone) feature Larry Willis, Nat Reeves, Billy Williams, Abraham Burton, Mike DiRubbo and Josh Bruneau. Born in Worcester, Davis was raised in Binghamton, NY and graduated in 1989 from The Hartt School’s Jackie McLean Institute (University of Hartford, CT). It was McLean’s guidance and recommendation that helped Davis land his first major gig with Art Blakey in NYC in 1989. He returned to Hartford in 1991, and joined McLean’s sextet and begin teaching alongside his mentor at the Artist’s Collective and the Hartt School of Music (University of Hartford), where he remains on the faculty. Davis currently leads his own bands and an all-star quartet featuring Larry Willis, and a quintet with Mike DiRubbo, David Bryant, Dezron Douglas and Eric McPherson. He also continues to perform with One For All (Eric Alexander, Jim Rotondi, David Hazeltine, John Webber and Joe Farnsworth) He is in demand as a sideman, has been featured on over 100 recordings and has also played with the Larry Willis’ Quintet, Freddie Hubbard and The New Jazz Composers Octet, Slide Hampton and The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band, The Jimmy Heath Big Band, Ron Carter Big Band, Cecil Payne, Horace Silver and Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Michael Dease - Trombone & Combo Leader

Michael Dease

Michael Dease has emerged as one of the premier jazz trombonists of his generation. Born in Augusta, Georgia, Dease played the saxophone and trumpet before choosing the trombone. He was a self-taught high school senior when he moved to New York in 2001 to study at the Juilliard School where he earned his Bachelor and Master degrees. Dease quickly established his reputation as a soloist and sideman, recording 4 albums as a leader and logging over 100 sessions as a sideman, all before the age of 30. His releases as a leader include: The Takeover, Clarity, Dease Bones, Grace, Coming Home, and his latest, All These Hands. The Grammy award-winning trombonist, has played with many of today's foremost jazz orchestras, including those led by Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, Charles Tolliver and Rufus Reid. Dease has also performed with Winard Harper, Renee Rosnes, Bill Charlap, Claudio Roditi, The Heath Brothers, Lewis Nash, Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Paul Schaffer and the CBS Orchestra, Elton John, Neal Diamond, Illinois Jacquet, Slide Hampton, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, WDR Big Band, George Gruntz, Billy Harper, and numerous others. He learned his craft from trombone legends Wycliffe Gordon and Joseph Alessi and is frequently asked to host master classes in the U.S. and abroad. Dease teaches jazz trombone full time at Michigan State University and has also been on faculty at Queens College CUNY, The New School and Northeastern University. In addition to leading his own quartet, quintet and sextet, he conducts his own 17-piece big band.

Bob Halek - Drums, Combo & Administration

Teacher and percussionist Bob Halek is a native of upstate New York. As a musician, his versatility keeps him very active recording and performing with artists from many different disciplines. He has performed with a Who's Who list of jazz musicians in festivals and in clubs throughout the Northeast. His current schedule includes performances with The Empire Jazz Orchestra, Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble, The Capitol Region Wind Ensemble and various club bands. Halek was named the 2012 District-wide Teacher of the Year in the East Greenbush School District where he teaches instrumental music. He is also on the faculty at Skidmore College teaching small jazz groups, percussion and drum set lessons. Halek also has appeared as a clinician and guest conductor for various concert bands, jazz bands and percussion ensembles.

Ingrid Jensen - Trumpet & Combo Leader

Ingrid Jensen

Born in Vancouver and raised in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Ingrid Jensen has been hailed as one of the most gifted improvising trumpeters of her generation. She graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1989, moved to Europe to teach at the Bruckner Conservatory at the age of twenty one, and returned to the east coast three years later to embark on a full-fledged career in Jazz music and beyond. Jensen has lived in New York for over twenty years and has recorded six CDs as a leader or co-leader and has been featured prominently on three Grammy-winning discs and numerous Juno winning albums as well, including her own winning CD, Vernal Fields. She continues to compose, arrange and lead her own groups and perform with cutting edge bands such as Terri-Lyne Carringtonʼs Mosaic Project, the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra and Darcy James and Secret Society.

Vic Juris - Guitar & Combo Leader

Vic Juris

The Jersey City, N.J. native took up guitar at age 10 and went on to study with jazz guitar legend Pat Martino. In 1975, Juris made his recording debut on alto saxophonist Eric Kloss' Bodies' Warmth (Muse). He has performed with Barry Miles, Richie Cole, Larry Coryell, Biréli Lagrène, Gary Peacock, John Abercrombie, Russell Malone and James Moody, among others, and has been a member of the David Liebman Group since 1991. He tours regularly with his own quartet and his recordings include Night Tripper, Pastels, Moonscape, Remembering Eric Dolphy and Songbook. Juris teaches at Rutgers University and Lehigh University and conducts clinics throughout the United States and Europe.


Dennis Mackrel – Drums & Combo Leader

Dennis Mackrel

Mackrel got his start playing in the Count Basie Orchestra in 1983, and would be the last drummer hired by Mr. Basie personally. Since then has played with an impressive list of ensembles, including the Village Vanguard Orchestra, Carla Bley Very Large Band, Slide Hampton and the Jazz Masters, the Hank Jones Trio, Manhattan Symphony Jazz Orchestra, Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, and the American Jazz Orchestra. Mackrel’s compositions have been recorded and performed internationally, most notably by the McCoy Tyner Band, who’s Grammy-Award-winning CDs The Turning Point (Verve Records, 1992) and Journey (Verve Records, 1993) included Mackrel's arrangements. He has also played with a host of other musicians that include Monty Alexander, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Hank Jones and Sir George Shearing. In 2010 Mackrel returned to the Count Basie Orchestra and served as the ensemble’s leader and chief conductor until 2013. Since 2015 he has been the chief conductor of the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Holland. Mackrel is also currently a professor at Queens College.


John Nazarenko - Avid ProTools Workshop

John Nazarenko is Senior Artist-in-Residence at Skidmore College and a renowned jazz pianist. He is also a music producer and engineer and has owned and operated The Creek Studio, a full production facility offering complete recording services, since 1980.  Nazarenko is also on the faculty at Williams College, directs the jazz ensemble at the Luzerne Music Center, and has authored several books in jazz studies. He performs as a soloist with numerous ensembles at jazz clubs and concert venues and has recorded with Eric Harland, Reuben Rogers, Chuck D'Aloia, and Colleen Pratt among others. His latest live recording project features Eric Harland and Matt Penman and is due for release in 2013.

Dick Oatts – Saxophone & Combo Leader

Dick Oatts

 In 1977 Dick Oatts moved to New York City and became a member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. Since then he has recorded and toured with small groups such as Red Rodney, Eddie Gomez, Vic Juric, Bob Brookmeyer, Mel Lewis, Dom Salvador, Jerry Bergonzi, Flim & the BB's, Fred Hersch, Dave Berkman, Soren Moller, Terell Stafford, Jon Faddis, Lalo Schiffrin, and Ray Mantilla. His big band and larger group experience include performances with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Mel Lewis, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Lester Bowie, Joe Lovano, Sam Jones-Tom Harrell, Paquito D'Rivera, Jim McNeely, Tito Puente, and Gunther Schuller. Oatts has also been featured with the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, Danish Radio Big Band, Norboton Jazz Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra, and the UMO Big Band in Helsinki. He has accompanied such vocalists as Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Neene Freelon, Mel Torme, and Milton Nascimento. He has recorded solos for pop artists Luther Vandross, James Taylor, and Everything But the Girl. Oatts has recorded many albums as a leader, and recent releases include Sweet Nowhere (Steeplechase, 2014) and Lookin Up (Steeplechase, 2012). He is currently a professor of Jazz Studies at Temple University, and been an artist-in-residence at the Amsterdam Conservatory since 1997. He has appeared as a soloist and clinician throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, Canada, South America, and the Middle East.

Jeb Patton - Piano & Combo Leader

Jeb Patton

Patton earned recognition in the jazz world at a young age.  He graduated from Duke University with honors after studying under Paul Jeffrey, and received his master’s degree at Queens College where he learned from pianist Roland Hanna and saxophone legend Jimmy Heath. Jeffrey and Heath asked him to perform with their groups and, after graduating, Patton began touring with the Heath Brothers and Jimmy Heath’s Generations Quintet. He has also played with Charles McPherson, Roberta Gambarini, Antonio Hart, Sachal Vasandani, Dmitry Baevsky, Winard Harper and his own trio. He has also performed with the George Coleman Quartet, the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Big Band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Sax Appeal, Etta Jones, Jessye Norman, Barbara Cook, James Moody, Maurice Peress, Coleridge Taylor Perkinson, the New York Philomusica, and in the Broadway musical, “After Midnight,” to name a few. In 2013, Sher Music published An Approach to Comping: the Essentials. Volume two of the series, An Approach to Comping: Vol. 2, Advanced Concepts and Techniques was recently released. Patton’s latest CD, “Shades and Tones”, was released in 2016 on the Cellar Live label. He also teaches piano, ear training, transcription, jazz piano for non-pianists, arranging, and improvisation at Queens College, Five Towns College, and NJPAC.  

Jim Snidero - Saxophone & Combo Leader

Jim snidero

Alto saxophonist, composer, and arranger Jim Snidero has been called a “master musician” and “alto saxophone virtuoso” by Downbeat Magazine, and placed in the 2017 Downbeat Critic’s Poll. He is a veteran recording artist with 20 solo recordings to his credit including Blue Afternoon (Criss-Cross), listed in The Penguin Jazz Guide: The History Of  The Music In The 1001 Best Albums, and Strings (Milestone/Fantasy). As a sideman he has played with the Mingus Big Band, Frank Sinatra, Eddie Palmieri, and Brother Jack McDuff, among others. Snidero was also granted a prestigious NEA grant to record with Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland. In addition to his performance activities Snidero is a well-known author and educator. His best-selling Jazz Conception book series (Advance Music) contains over forty books, has been translated into 4 languages, and is an incredibly popular jazz education resource. In 2013, Snidero created The Jazz Conception Company, which offers online and mobile-compatible jazz student workshops, video play alongs and apps. Snidero has been a visiting professor at Princeton University and Indiana University and is currently on the adjunct faculty at New School University and New Jersey City University.

Dave Stryker - Guitar & Combo Leader

Dave Stryker

Whether you’ve heard guitarist Dave Stryker fronting his own group (with 28 CD’s as a leader to date), or as a featured sideman with, Stanley Turrentine and Jack McDuff, you know why Gary Giddins in the Village Voice calls him "one of the most distinctive guitarists to come along in recent years.” Hot House magazine awarded him Best Guitarist Fans Decision for 2017.  He was recently voted once again as one of the top Jazz Guitarists in the 2017 Downbeat Critics and Readers Polls. His most recent CD “Strykin’ Ahead” reached #3 for and has been in the Top 20 for 20 weeks on the JazzWeek Radio chart, and was picked as one of the top CD’s of 2017 by Downbeat. Stryker grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, moved to New York City in 1980, and joined organist Jack McDuff’s group (1984-85).  From 1986 to 1995, Stryker played with tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine.  He has also performed with Freddie Hubbard, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Smith, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and many others. Dave is the Adjunct Professor of Jazz guitar at Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, and at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University. He is also passing along his experience by teaching at The Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop, and The Litchfield Jazz Camp. His book “Dave Stryker’s Jazz Guitar Improvisation Method” (Mel Bay Publishing) is available on his website at


Ray Vega - Trumpet & Combo Leader

Ray Vega

Ray Vega has established himself as one of the innovators of the international Jazz and Latin music scenes and is a trumpeter, percussionist, composer, arranger and educator. A native of the South Bronx, he is a veteran of the bands of Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, and Mario Bauza to name a few. Vega has performed and/or recorded with Nicholas Payton, Joe Henderson, Lionel Hampton, Mel Torme, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, The Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Jazz at Lincoln Center Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Paul Simon, Diane Schuur, Michel Camilo, and Eddie Palmieri. He has two recordings on the Concord Picante label, his self-titled debut "Ray Vega", and "Boperation", along with "Pa'lante" on the Palmetto label. Vega's 2nd Palmetto CD "Squeeze, Squeeze" has also received critical acclaim including Four Stars in Down Beat Magazine.
Vega's CD "East-West Trumpet Summit", a collaboration with trumpeter Thomas Marriott, hit number 1 on the Jazzweek national radio charts. His latest CD – the second recording by Vega and Marriott is “The Return of The East-West Trumpet Summit.” Vega is a senior lecturer at The University of Vermont (UVM) where he teaches Jazz History, directs 3 Jazz combos and directs the Jazz trumpet studio. UVM recently inducted Vega as a university scholar for 2015-16 and he is the first creative artist to receive this honor at UVM.

Doug Weiss - Bass & Combo Leader

Doug Weiss

Raised in Chicago, IL Weiss has lived and performed in the New York City jazz scene since graduating from the William Paterson College jazz studies program in 1988. His first international travel was to Japan with the legendary singer Joe Williams in 1991 and, that same year, he joined the faculty of the New School University. In 1995 Weiss recorded the first of two critically acclaimed Blue Note records under the leadership of pianist Kevin Hays. His relationship with Hays continues with 10 CDs recorded and touring appearances in the United States, Europe, and Asia. In 2004 he joined the faculty at SUNY Purchase. Weiss has been part of two Grammy-nominated works, both by the late Pete Seeger.

Matt Wilson - Drums & Combo Leader

Matt Wilson

New York based drummer and Grammy nominee Matt Wilson is recognized for his musical and melodic drumming style. The composer, bandleader, producer, and teaching artist is also well-known for his positive energy and sense of humor. He performed at the White House as part of an all-star jazz group for a state dinner concert hosted by President Obama along with Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Chris Botti, Randy Brecker, Antonio Hart and James Genus. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at the Litchfield Jazz Festival, where he conducted a much-heralded public interview with Dave Brubeck. In 2010, Wilson conducted over 250 outreach programs promoting jazz including an acclaimed Jazz for Young Peoples concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Wilson leads the Matt Wilson Quartet, Arts and Crafts, Christmas Tree-O and the Carl Sandburg Project in addition to playing with bands led by Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Charlie Haden, Lee Konitz, Bob Stewart, Denny Zeitlin, Ron Miles, Marty Ehrlich, Ted Nash, Jane Ira Bloom and Dena DeRose among others. He has performed with many legends of music including Herbie Hancock, Dewey Redman, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Elvis Costello, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, John Zorn, Marshall Allen, Wynton Marsalis, Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and Hank Jones. Wilson has appeared on 250 CDs as a sideman and has released 9 as a leader for Palmetto Records as well as co-leading 5 additional releases.

David Wong - Bass & Combo Leader

David Wong

Bassist David Wong was born and raised in New York City. In 2004, he graduated from the Juilliard School in classical music. He has studied with Orin O’Brien (New York Philharmonic), Ron Carter, Ben Wolfe, and John Clayton.  He is currently a member of Roy Haynes’ “Fountain of Youth” band, The "Heath Brothers" Quartet – led by jazz legends Jimmy Heath and Albert "Tootie" Heath, The Benny Green trio, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.  Wong was also the last bass player in Hank Jones' "Great Jazz Trio" and is featured on the piano master's last recording.  He has performed in many of the major concert halls and jazz clubs throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can also be seen regularly performing with Steve Kuhn, Brian Lynch's "Unsung Heroes Project", Ralph Lalama's "Bop Juice", the Jeb Patton Trio, the Dan Nimmer Trio, the Aaron Diehl Trio, Ray Gallon, Grant Stewart, Dmitry Baevsky, and Sachal Vasandani. He has recorded with Hank Jones, Roy Haynes, Jimmy Heath, Albert "Tootie" Heath , The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Benny Green, Dick Oatts, Joe Magnerelli, Wycliffe Gordon, Russell Malone, Brian Lynch, John Marshall, Grant Stewart, Dmitry Baevsky, Fabien Mary, and Walt Weiskopf. Wong has performed with Clark Terry, Frank Wess, Joe Wilder, Jimmy Wormworth, Illinois Jacquet, Lou Donaldson, Barry Harris, Slide Hampton, Andy Bey, Bill Charlap, Bennie Wallace, Wynton Marsalis, Terell Stafford, Gary Smulyan, Eric Reed, Michael Weiss, Kenny Washington, and Lewis Nash. Wong is a former participant at the Skidmore Jazz Institute and is currently an adjunct professor at the New School and Queens College. 


Donald McCormack - Program Consultant

As Dean of Special Programs at Skidmore College, Don McCormack founded the Skidmore Jazz Institute in 1987. Under McCormack's 20-year tenure as dean, the College offered nationally recognized programs in the arts, among them the NYS Summer Writers Institute, Skidmore Summer Dance Workshop, Skidmore Summer Flute Institute, SITI Company Summer Theater Workshop and the Summer SIX Art Program. A long-time advocate for arts education, McCormack has been the inspiration and the impetus for creating artistic residencies and scholarship funds that serve disadvantaged students. Currently he serves on the Board of Directors at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Gerald Zaffuts - Program Consultant

Gerald Zaffuts is the founding Director of the Skidmore Jazz Institute (1987-2007) and was instrumental in starting the College’s jazz program in the early 80’s. A graduate of the University of Northern Colorado, he has also taught at Bennington College, SUNY Albany and Schenectady Community College. Zaffuts was principle trombone with the Colorado Fusion Orchestra under the direction of Pat Williams and has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Bach Choir of London, and at the Newport and Kool Jazz Festivals as well as with a wide variety of recording artists and entertainers. He has recorded with the New Columbian Brass Band and The New Walnut Street All-Star Orchestra, and worked as a post-session producer for Dorian Recordings. In 2011 he received the Olmsted Award for Excellence in Secondary Teaching from Williams College.

Brian Carucci – Administrative Coordinator

Brian Carucci is a band director at Shenendehowa High School where he teaches Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, and two Jazz Ensembles. In addition, he is the pit orchestra director for the Shenendehowa High School Musical and the advisor of the Shenendehowa chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society. Carucci serves as Assistant Conductor for the New York State Summer School for the Arts (NYSSSA), School of Orchestral Studies Wind Ensemble and is the Administrative Coordinator for the Skidmore Jazz Institute. An adjunct clarinet instructor at Schenectady County Community College, Carucci is also an active woodwind adjudicator for the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA). Carucci has performed with the Northern Symphonic Winds, the Capital District Wind Ensemble, the Schenectady Light Opera Company (SLOC), and the Glens Falls Symphony. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Music Education and Master's degree in Music Performance from Crane School of Music.