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Skidmore College
Skidmore Jazz Institute

Institute Faculty 2019

Former Institute faculty members can be seen here.

Mark Beaubriand - Director & Saxophone

A graduate of the University of Miami with a master's degree in jazz pedagogy, Mark Beaubriand began his musical career teaching at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY where heMark Beaubriand worked with many different genres. He is the former Director of Music for the Saratoga Springs City School District where he worked with woodwinds, the Jazz Ensemble and Symphonic Band. Under his leadership, the Jazz Ensemble received many state and national awards and commissioned works by Frank Mantooth, Jeff Jarvis, Bill Cunliffe and Jim Snidero.  He is most proud of his former students who have become teachers and/or performers. Beaubriand has performed with the New York Voices, Manhattan Transfer, Johnny Mathis, Aretha Franklin, Rosemary Clooney, Natalie Cole, Liberace, The O’Jays, The Temptations and The Four Tops. He has been with the Skidmore Jazz Institute since 1990.    

Paul Bollenback – Guitar & Combo Leader

Paul BollenbackBollenback was raised in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., and got his earliest musical nudge from his father, a classically trained trumpeter. Bollenback majored in music at the University of Miami, then studied with Baltimore-based professor of theory/composition Asher Zlotnick. In 1997, Bollenback was named musician of the year at the Washington Area Music Awards, and in 2011 he garnered a Grammy nomination for co-production on Joey DeFrancesco’s Never Can Say Goodbye (Hi Note).

 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.

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.

Greg Fishman – Tenor Saxophone & Combo Leader

Greg FishmanSaxophonist and flutist Greg Fishman is an accomplished performer, recording artist, author, teacher and clinician. Born in Chicago, he graduated from DePaul University with a degree in Jazz Performance, and earned a Masters Degree in Jazz Pedagogy from Northwestern University. Fishman has toured and performed worldwide with his own group, and with such artists as the Woody Herman Band, Louis Bellson, Slide Hampton, Lou Levy, Clark Terry, Jackie and Roy, Don Menza, Jimmy Heath, Lou Donaldson, Harry Allen, Jeff Hamilton, Eddie Higgins, and Benny Golson among others. He is the co-founder, along with Brazilian guitarist/vocalist, Paulinho Garcia, of the award winning duo, “Two for Brazil.” He is widely-recognized as an authority on Stan Getz, and has authored three Getz transcription books published by Hal Leonard. His self-published books on Jazz Saxophone are in circulation worldwide and have been endorsed by top educators and jazz performers. He is a contributing author to noted jazz magazines and liner notes. Fishman is based in the Chicago area where he performs locally and teaches at Greg Fishman Jazz Studios.

Jimmy Greene – Tenor Saxophone & Combo Leader

Jimmy GreenHartford, CT native Jimmy Greene is a saxophonist, composer, and educator. He has released ten solo recordings, including his most recent Flowers: Beautiful Life Volume 2 (Mack Avenue). His previous release Beautiful Life is a celebration of his 6-year old daughter, Anna Marquez-Green, whose life was tragically taken at Sandy Hook Elementary. The album garnered two Grammy nominations in 2016. Greene graduated from the Hartt School and received a master’s in music education from Boston University; he is currently a doctoral candidate 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 assistant professor of music and co-coordinator of jazz studies at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Connecticut.

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.

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 the a Professor of Jazz Trumpet at The Eastman School of Music and maintains a busy performing schedule.

 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.

 Bob McChesney – Trombone & Combo Leader 

Bob McChesneyBob McChesney is jazz and studio trombonist, well-known for his use and mastery of the 'doodle - tongue,' a method of articulation on the trombone as well as his ultra-fast and melodic solos. Born in Maryland, he holds a bachelor's degree from State University of New York at Fredonia. He lives in Los Angeles and his work as a studio musician includes film, television, records and jingles. He can be heard on recent recordings by Ray Charles, Diana Krall, Michael Bolton, Shakira, Michael Buble’, Joey DeFrancesco and many others. He has his own cd as a leader, No Laughing Matter–The Bob McChesney Quartet Plays Steve Allen, and has performed with Arturo Sandoval, Nancy Wilson, Patti Austin, Stanley Clarke, Robb McConnell, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Jack Jones, and The Woody Herman Band among others. His long list of film and television credits includes Rocky Balboa, Pursuit of Happyness, Everyone’s Hero, The Good Shepard, Mystic River, Rush Hour 2, The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dreams, and Futurama. His computer experience has earned him album credits as a programmer, recording engineer and producer. McChesney is the author of Doodle Studies and Etudes (Chesapeake Music) and is a Professor at Cal State University Long Beach and Northridge 

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.

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.


Brian Carucci – Assistant Director

Brian 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

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.