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The Clark Terry/Phi Mu Alpha Jazz Festival showcases excellent student musicians and guest artists from around the nation, all contributing to a vibrant festival of jazz and the celebration of music performance and education. This year, we have the honor to host jazz pianist, composer, and educator, Dr. Alton Merrell. Dr. Alton Merrell is a world-class pianist, Hammond B-3 organist, composer, and educator. He has performed and taught throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and parts of the Caribbean. Merrell’s musical artistry is a unique blend of lyrical melodies, rich harmonies, and fluid technique that spans multiple music genres including jazz, gospel, classical, pop, and rhythm and blues. Whether performing his own compositions or commissioned to celebrate the music of legendary artists, Merrell’s rich musical interpretations take listeners on spirit-filled excursions that deeply touch the soul. Dr. Merrell is a sought-after jazz pianist who has performed with legendary artists, including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Curtis Fuller, Benny Golson, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Roger Humphries, Sean Jones, Hubert Laws, Delfeayo Marsalis, Christian McBride, Jimmy Owens, Rufus Reed, Sachal Vasandani, and Jeff “Tain” Watts, and regularly performs with Pittsburgh’s best jazz artists.
The festival has grown in size every year, becoming known as the premier student jazz event in the region. We look forward to welcoming new student groups, national artists, clinicians, and adjudicators from across the country each year. Our goal is to ensure that every participant leaves the festival energized, with a greater appreciation and knowledge for the art of jazz music and performance.
We can't wait to hear and meet you at this year's festival!
Dr. Joseph L. Jefferson, Festival Director
February 4-5, 2022
Registration OPENS August 30, 2021
Featuring Dr. Alton Merrell, Jazz Pianist and the Southeast Missouri State University Jazz Ensembles
Student groups begin at 8 p.m.
$185 for each participating band.
Dr. Alton Merrell is a world class pianist, Hammond B-3 organist, composer, and educator. He has performed and taught throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and parts of the Caribbean.
Merrell’s musical artistry is a unique blend of lyrical melodies, rich harmonies, and fluid technique that spans multiple music genres including jazz, gospel, classical, pop, and rhythm and blues. Whether performing his own compositions or commissioned to celebrate the music of legendary artists, Merrell’s rich musical interpretations take listeners on spirit-filled excursions that deeply touch the soul.
Merrell is a sought-after jazz pianist who has performed with legendary artists, including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Curtis Fuller, Benny Golson, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Roger Humphries, Sean Jones, Hubert Laws, Delfeayo Marsalis, Christian McBride, Jimmy Owens, Rufus Reed, Sachal Vasandani, and Jeff “Tain” Watts, and regularly performs with Pittsburgh’s best jazz artists.
Merrell is a current member of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra and has performed multiple times with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Cleveland State Jazz Heritage Orchestra, Pittsburgh Concert Chorale, YSU All-Star Alumni Jazz Ensemble, Warren Philharmonic Orchestra, and the OMEA Intercollegiate All-Star Jazz Ensemble.
Merrell is a composer of illustrious works in gospel jazz and regularly performs with local and nationally known Gospel/Christian artists, some of whom include Kim Burrell, David and Nicole Binion, Morris Chapman, Maurette Brown Clark, Darwin Hobbs, Israel Houghton, Doe Jones, Donnie McClurkin, Martha Munizzi, Dorothy Norwood, LaShunn Pace, Alvin Slaughter, Parkes Stewart, and the late Rev. Timothy Wright. He also has been featured several times on the nationally televised Bobby Jones Gospel Show and has served as orchestrator and music director of several oratorios that incorporated several musical genres including Gospel, Broadway, Latin-Brazilian, Neo-Classical, Caribbean, World Music, among others.
Merrell is a current member of the group Firm Roots, a jazz sextet made up of some of the finest musicians in Pittsburgh, PA, and leads his own instrumental jazz group, “Illuminators” as well as his own gospel jazz vocal group “Dr. Alton Merrell & Impact.”
Merrell is a self-published author of five books with online course offerings for each. These books include 30 Modern Bebop Licks: 30 Exercises to Help You Master Bebop Improvisation, Music Theory for the Improvising Musician, and The Complete Piano Technique Course: Book 1, 2 and 3. From the University of Pittsburgh, Merrell received his Ph.D. in Jazz Studies with a research focus on jazz piano performance and pedagogy. His primary research focus was on The Life and Music of McCoy Tyner: An Examination of the Sociocultural Influences on McCoy Tyner and His Music. From Youngstown State University, Alton earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Education and Classical Piano Performance, graduating Cum Laude, and a Master of Music in Jazz Piano performance.
Currently the Professor of Jazz Piano at West Virginia University, Merrell is the former Director of Jazz Studies at Youngstown State University and has previously taught at the University of Pittsburgh. Merrell has taught students all over the world and continues to train musicians worldwide though his online school Minstrel School of Music (www.minstrelschool.com).
Whether performing or teaching, Merrell incorporates diverse musical styles in his repertoire to minister love and hope to people around the world.
Dr. Joel Vanderheyden is a versatile saxophonist, composer, and educator with tremendous passion for the unifying power of music. As a performer, he draws upon his study of jazz (M.M. with Chris Vadala) and classical saxophone (D.M.A. with Kenneth Tse), immersing himself in a variety of musical situations, ranging from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra to the cinematic electro-jazz group, Koplant No. He is also a regular member of both the Jazz St. Louis Big Band and the Missouri Saxophone Quartet, and has performed on stages in the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Scotland, Croatia, and across the United States, spanning large festivals, intimate jazz clubs, rock venues, live radio performances, and some of the world’s finest concert halls. Vanderheyden is the recipient of a grant from the Iowa Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, and his debut album of original compositions, Complete Life, was selected as one of the top albums of 2009 by KCCK Jazz 88.3FM. He has both performed with and written music for Strings of Arda, a chamber group from the St. Louis Symphony, and was named a quarterfinalist for the 2018 GRAMMY Music Educator Award. Currently, Dr. Vanderheyden serves as Professor of Music and Director of Jazz at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, MO, and teaches Applied Saxophone at Washington University. He maintains an active schedule working with high school and college students across the country, and is a performing artist/clinician for D’Addario Woodwinds and Selmer Paris Saxophones.
Drummer, Marty Morrison, hails from Hannibal, Missouri. He was exposed to music at an early age by his father, Bill Morrison, a jazz pianist/organist. Marty started playing the drums at the age of 5, and he played his first gig at 12 years old. In 1993, Morrison joined the “Unified Jazz Ensemble,” a group employed by the National Endowment for the Arts/Chamber Music America, and this association endured for about 15 years. This group performed as artists in residence at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and for the Mississippi County Arts Council in Blytheville, Arkansas. While with the Unified Jazz Ensemble, Morrison was invited to join pianist Marcus Roberts’ Trio, splitting his time between these groups. The Unified Jazz Ensemble then relocated to Washington D.C. While on the East coast, Morrison was fortunate enough to collaborate and tour with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Rick Margitza, Eric Alexander, Harold Mabern, James Williams, Gary Thomas, Benito Gonzalez, Vincent Herring, Tim Hagans, Sean Jones, Marcus Printup, Terell Stafford, Reggie Thomas, Charlie Byrd, Jon Faddis, and Johnny O’Neal, to name a few. He has performed across Europe, Japan, Korea, Canada, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Marty returned to Missouri in 2007 to complete his Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. He is currently a jazz studies professor at Missouri State University. Currently, he most frequently performs in Kansas City as a freelance artist.
Dave Dickey is a jazz and classical trombonist, educator, and band leader. Dave attended the University of North Texas and received a Bachelors in Jazz Studies. While at North Texas, he recorded two CDs with the famed One O’ Clock Lab Band directed by Neil Slater and one CD with the Zebras under the leadership of Dan Hearle. While at North Texas, Dave took lessons from the late great Vern Kagrice. Dave then moved to Miami and lived there for six years as a performing / touring musician and also a jazz radio DJ for WDNA-Miami. While living in Miami, he received his Masters in Jazz Performance from Florida International University. While at FIU, Dave took jazz lessons from the legendary Art Seres and classical lessons from Mark Hetzler. Next, Dave moved to Urbana, Illinois to work on his DMA in Jazz Performance. While he was there he was teaching music classes and jazz ensembles at The University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and Richland College in Decatur. Dave also took lessons at Illinois from trombone great Jim Pugh. He was also a busy freelance musician in the Chicago and Indianapolis area for jazz, salsa, studio recordings, club date bands, and classical performances.
Dave Dickey currently lives in Saint Louis, MO as a music educator and band leader. Dave has taught at the University of Missouri-St Louis (trombone and jazz trombone ensemble), music teacher in the Jennings School District, ensembles and classes as the Director of Instrumental Music at St Charles Community College, Music Business at Lindenwood University, and Jazz Ensemble, Concert Band, and Music Technology at Lindbergh High School. He is currently the leader of 3 bands: the Dave Dickey Big Band, an 18 piece jazz big band featuring faculty from University of Missouri-St Louis, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, Webster University, St Louis University, University of Missouri-Columbia, Missouri State University, and University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana , and also leader of the Mosaic Jazz Sextet. Dave is also co-leader of the Cubby Bones, a trombone quintet with Steve Wiest, Dave Dickey, Tom Garling, Andy Baker, and Tom Matta. Dave Dickey is also Past-President for Missouri Association of Jazz Education (MOAJE) and board member for the St Louis Low Brass Collective (STLLBC).
Dave Dickey has performed with artists such as Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D'Rivera, Tito Puente, poncho Sanchez, Nestor Torres, David Sanborn, Louie Bellson, Dave Liebman, Bobby Shew, John Fedchock, Eddie Daniels, Randy Brecker, Byron Stripling, Vincent DiMartino, Kevin Mahogany, Art Seres, Jim Pugh, Vic Damone, Johnny Mathis, Melton Mustafa Orchestra, Dennis Noday Orchestra, Four Freshman, St Louis Symphony, St Louis Philharmonic, Lee Harris Orchestra, Dallas Jazz Orchestra, Pete Peterson Jazz Colection Orchestra, Jim Widner Big Band, St Louis Jazz Orchestra, and many others.