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Skidmore College
Skidmore Jazz Institute

Institute Faculty

Former Institute faculty members can be seen here.

 Todd Coolman - Artistic Director, Bass & Combo Leader

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.  

Bill Cunliffe – Piano & Combo Leader

Bill CunliffePianist, composer and Grammy Award-winning arranger Bill Cunliffe has worked with legends including Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, Ray Brown, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and Art Farmer. He currently performs with his trio; his big band; his Latin band, Imaginación; and his classical-jazz ensemble, Trimotif. Recent releases include his trio album River Edge, New Jersey, and his Overture, Waltz and Rondo for jazz piano, trumpet and orchestra, which won Cunliffe his fifth Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Composition. Cunliffe is a jazz studies professor at Cal State Fullerton. He received his master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music and was the 1989 winner of the Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition.

Steve Davis - Trombone & Combo Leader

Steve DavisOne of today’s leading improvisers on the trombone, Davis’ lyrical, hard-swinging style first gained him broad recognition during the 1990’s while working with the bands of Art Blakey, Jackie McLean, Chick Corea’s Origin and the cooperative sextet, One For All. He has appeared in Downbeat Magazine’s Reader’s and Critic’s Polls and was nominated by The JJA four years in a row as Trombonist of the Year. Recent recordings include For Real and Gettin’ It Done (Positone). He graduated from The Hartt School (Jackie McLean Institute—University of Hartford, CT). McLean helped Davis land his first major gig with Art Blakey in NYC in 1989. In 1991 Davis joined McLean’s sextet and began teaching alongside his mentor at the Artist’s Collective and the Hartt School of Music where he remains on the faculty. As a leader, he frequently performs with Larry Willis, Mike DiRubbo, David Bryant, Dezron Douglas, Eric McPherson, and continues to perform with One For All (Eric Alexander, Jim Rotondi, David Hazeltine, John Webber and Joe Farnsworth). Davis 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. The Georgia native 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's and master's degrees. He has recorded nine albums as a leader and logged over 100 sessions as a sideman. His latest album is All These Hands on Posi-Tone Records. Dease is a Grammy Award-winning musician who has played with many of today's foremost jazz orchestras, including those led by Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, and Rufus Reid. He has also performed with Renee Rosnes, The Heath Brothers, Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Lewis Nash and Slide Hampton among others. He teaches jazz trombone at Michigan State University in addition to leading his own quartet, quintet and sextet, and conducting his own 17-piece big band. 

Mimi Fox - Guitar & Combo Leader

2022 Mimi Fox

Internationally renowned guitarist/composer/recording artist Mimi Fox has been a winner in 6 consecutive Downbeat Magazine international critic's polls and is recognized as one of the most eloquent guitarists on today's scene. She tours regularly and has performed and recorded with Branford Marsalis, David Sanchez, Houston Person, Diana Krall, Kevin Mahogany, Joey DeFrancesco and Terri Lyne Carrington among others. She has also shared the stage with legends Stevie Wonder and John Sebastian. She has released 10 recordings as a leader including her most recent, Standards, Old & New. Fox has written and performed original scores for orchestras, documentary films, and dance projects and received Meet the Composer, California Arts Council grants. A devoted educator, she has given concerts and workshops in California prisons as part of the Arts In Correction program in addition to teaching at the Jazzschool/California Jazz Conservatory at Berkeley and New York University. 

Jimmy Greene - Saxophone & Combo Leader

2021 Jimmy GreeneConnecticut native Jimmy Greene is a saxophonist, composer, and educator. He has released 11 solo recordings to critical acclaim, including his most recent While Looking Up. Greene’s two previous albums celebrated the life of his 6-year old daughter, Anna Marquez-Green, whose life was tragically taken at Sandy Hook Elementary. His 2016 album Beautiful Life garnered two Grammy nominations. Greene graduated from the Hartt School, received a master’s in music education from Boston University, and his doctorate degree in jazz arts at the Manhattan School of Music. In addition to his recordings and appearances as a leader, Greene appears on over 75 albums as a sideman, and has toured and/or recorded with a number of jazz greats. Greene is an associate professor of music and co-coordinator of jazz studies at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Connecticut.

 Bob Halek - Drums, Combo & Administration

Bob HalekBob Halek is a much sought-after drummer, percussionist, educator, clinician and conductor.  Performing jazz, pop, rock, soul, big band, orchestral, concert and opera music, he has shared the stage with many exceptional regional and national musicians. Halek was named Teacher of the Year in the East Greenbush School District where he spent many years teaching instrumental music. He is currently an adjunct professor at Schenectady County Community College and Skidmore College.

Clay Jenkins – Trumpet & Combo Leader

Clay JenkinsClay Jenkins' career as a performer began when he joined the Stan Kenton Orchestra in 1977. He moved to Los Angeles and soon after joined the The Buddy Rich Big Band and then The Count Basie Orchestra. He became a charter member of The Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (CHJO) along with the great Snooky Young. He has 8 solo recordings and has recorded with Joe LaBarbera, Milt Jackson, Steve Houghton, Diana Krall, Kim Richmond, Billy Harper, “Trio East,” Lyle Mays, Peter Erskine, Gene Bertoncini, Rufus Reid, Ray Brown, Kurt Elling, Bob Sheppard, Jim Widner, John LaBarbera, Pat LaBarbera and Miki Coltrane among others. He has performed on 3 Grammy Nominated Albums including The Alan Ferber Big Band, The Dave Slonaker Jazz Orchestra and Chuck Owens’ Surge Big Band. Jenkins is a Professor of Jazz Trumpet at The Eastman School of Music and maintains a busy performing schedule.

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 - Recording and Audio Engineering

John NazarenkoJohn 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, Some Other Time, features Eric Harland and Larry Grenadier.

Michael Rodriguez - Trumpet & Combo Leader

Mike RodriguezGrammy Award-winning trumpeter/composer, Michael Rodriguez was inspired to pursue music by his father, drummer Roberto Rodriguez. He studied at the New World School of the Arts, the University of Miami and received his B.A. from the New School University. He has performed and toured with Clark Terry, Joe Lovano, Carla Bley, The Clayton Brothers, Kenny Barron, Harry Connick Jr., Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and with the Chico O’Farrill, Maria Schneider, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center Orchestras among others. He received Grammy Awards for performances on Charlie Haden’s Land of the Sun (2003) and Chick Corea’s Antidote (2020). He and has brother pianist Robert Rodriguez have four albums to their credit, including their latest, Pathways, out earlier this year. Rodriguez teaches at New York University and San Francisco Conservatory of Music. 

Dave Stryker - Guitar & Combo Leader

Dave StrykerGary Giddins of the Village Voice calls guitarist Dave Stryker "one of the most distinctive guitarists to come along in recent years.” Stryker has 31 CD’s as a leader and is known as a featured sideman with Stanley Turrentine and Jack McDuff. Hot House magazine awarded him Best Guitarist Fans Decision for 2017 and he was once again voted as one of the top Jazz Guitarists in the 2019 Downbeat Critics and Readers Polls. His most recent CD Eight Track III hIt #1 for 6 weeks on the JazzWeek Radio chart, and was chosen as one of the top CD’s of 2019 by Downbeat Magazine. Stryker grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, moved to New York City in 1980, and joined organist Jack McDuff’s group soon after. He has also performed with Freddie Hubbard, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Smith, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and many others. He is the author of Dave Stryker’s Jazz Guitar Improvisation Method (Mel Bay Publishing). Stryker is an Adjunct Professor at Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, and Rutgers University.

Steve Wilson - Saxophone & Combo Leader

2022 Steve Wilson

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Steve Wilson has performed on more than 100 recordings with artists such as Michael Brecker, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Wilson, Joe Henderson, Charlie Byrd, Bill Stewart and Mulgrew Miller. He has 7 recordings of his own featuring collaborations with Lewis Nash, Carl Allen, Steve Nelson, Cyrus Chestnut, Greg Hutchinson, Ray Drummond and Nicholas Payton among others. Wilson currently co-leads a trio with pianist Renee Rosnes and bassist Peter Washington and is a member of the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Billy Childs Quartet, Christian McBride’s Inside Straight and Big Band, and the Buster Williams Quartet. He is an in-demand guest artist and has previously taught at the Juilliard School, William Patterson University, the New School and SUNY Purchase. He is currently the Director of Jazz Studies at City College of New York.



Brian Carucci – Director

Brian CarucciBrian Carucci is a band director at Shenendehowa High School where he teaches Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, instrumental lessons and is the pit orchestra director for the High School Musical Company. He is a woodwind adjudicator the NYS School Music Association and coordinates the annual Shen Jazz Festival with over 300 local jazz students. He has played with Albany Pro Musica, Northern Symphonic Winds, Capital Region Wind Ensemble, Schenectady Light Opera Company and Glens Falls Symphony and maintains his own private teaching studio in Rexford. Carucci has served as Assistant Conductor for the NYSSSA School of Orchestral Studies and as adjunct clarinet instructor at Schenectady County Community College. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Music Education and Master's degree in Music Performance from the Crane School of Music.

Donald McCormack - Program Consultant

Don McCormackAs 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 launched 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.