WMU News

Steve Zegree is Bobby McFerrin Professor of Jazz

Sept. 28, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Internationally known vocal jazz educator Dr. Stephen Zegree has been named the Bobby McFerrin Professor of Jazz at Western Michigan University.

The announcement was made by WMU President Judith I. Bailey Sept. 27 during her annual State of the University address. She named Zegree the recipient of one of two endowed professorships created this year to honor faculty members for their "passion for the life of the mind and the corresponding commitment to the well-being of our students."

Zegree, a WMU faculty member since 1978, is a conductor, composer, pianist and arranger as well as the driving force behind WMU's Gold Company, a world-renowned vocal ensemble that is routinely invited to perform at top venues around the globe.

The professorship is named for Zegree's friend and colleague Bobby McFerrin, a 10-time Grammy Award winner who is an ardent supporter of music education. McFerrin visited WMU earlier this year to appear with Gold Company and has praised both Zegree and the caliber of the students he mentors.

In June, DownBeat magazine reported on the close connection between McFerrin, WMU's vocal jazz program and Zegree. The relationship dates back to the 1980s and, while McFerrin only visits campus at about three-year intervals, he frequently arranges to connect with Zegree and Gold Company at other locations.

"I always enjoy it, coming by and hanging out," DownBeat quoted McFerrin as saying. "Steve's bands and his groups are always fantastic. I appreciate their enthusiasm and their energy."

Directing Gold Company, Zegree has brought the ensemble to New York City's Lincoln Center, repeat invitations to the International Association of Jazz Educators conferences, and the prestigious French Polyfolia Festival. Under Zegree's leadership, the group has won more than 40 DownBeat awards, and its performances have firmly established the prominence of WMU's jazz studies program.

In addition, Zegree is widely sought as a conductor, clinician and ajudicator. In recent years, he has conducted the World Youth Choir, the World Symposium on Choral Music, and he has been the featured clinician for choral events across the nation. His arrangements have been widely published and performed internationally, and he is the author of the 2002 book and CD "The Complete Guide to Teaching Vocal Jazz."

Zegree is a classically trained pianist who is an accomplished jazz pianist as well. Together with the Western Jazz Quartet, he has played for audiences at the International Gilmore Keyboard Festival, Montreaux Jazz Festival, and on tour in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and France.

Zegree earned a bachelor's degree from Miami University in 1975, a master's degree from Indiana University in 1978 and a doctoral degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1989.

Named professors at WMU receive an annual stipend of at least $12,500 for the first three years following their appointments. The stipend is derived from the earnings of an endowment from private donations put at the discretion of the president. Up to one-half of the stipend may be used to augment the faculty member's salary. The balance is to be used for expenditures on appropriate professional endeavors.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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