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Volume 26, Number 6 — June 2019

ETSU Jazz Program Marks 10th Anniversary

Dr. David Champouillon
Dr. David Champouillon
Additional photos below »

May 07, 2012

JOHNSON CITY, TN When Dr. David Champouillon came to East Tennessee State University in 2002, he knew he was going to teach trumpet and concert band. But the plan included other possibilities, as well.

In agreement with the search committee, Champouillon was going to convert within a couple of years to directing the ETSU Jazz Ensemble. His plans were even deeper, and included the establishment of a nationally recognized jazz program offering a concentration in jazz studies.

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the ETSU jazz program under his leadership, which was celebrated with the annual "Spring Jazz at the Culp" concert on Friday, April 27. The Jazz Doctors, made up of the ETSU jazz faculty, along with Steinway Piano Artist Lenore Raphael, were the featured performers, as well as the ETSU Jazz Ensemble.

What started out as courses in jazz ensemble and the history of jazz has grown into a curriculum that also includes applied study, jazz combo, advanced jazz combo, jazz pedagogy and jazz theory-beginning improvisation.

Along with Champouillon, the jazz faculty of the ETSU Department of Music now includes Martin Walters (bass and combos), Barry Hannah (guitar, jazz history and guitar ensemble), Robert Jeter (applied jazz piano), David Bubsey (history of jazz) and Dr. Rande Sanderbeck (percussion).

How the jazz program developed, Champouillon says, "is a story unto itself." The first step was to make jazz ensemble more attractive to students and the community. "The Jazz Ensemble was not considered a major ensemble," Champouillon said. "This has been updated so that the group, along with other major ensembles, receives priority scheduling status and major ensemble recognition for (music) majors.

Realizing that regional audiences would come for quality, Champouillon worked to bring in internationally known guest artists to perform with the ETSU Jazz Ensemble. These artists include Doc Severinsen, Maynard Ferguson, Marvin Stamm, Ed Shaughnessy and The Tonight Show All-Stars, Jon Faddis, Lenore Raphael, Steve Turre and Conrad Herwig, among others. Major groups like The Airmen of Note and Spyro Gyra have also appeared as part of the ETSU jazz series.

Not only did bringing in well-known artists provide excellent learning opportunities for the students, but it also helped increase the size of the audiences for jazz concerts. Previously, jazz audiences averaged around 75 listeners. Now, Champouillon says, the average is now 400-500, with frequent sell-out shows and audience members traveling from all over the state and southeast.

The second step in the program's development was to increase scholarship opportunities for students, which would ensure a fully complemented band comprised of top students. Jazz scholarships now take many forms, including the Academic Performance Scholarship in Music-Jazz, general band/jazz scholarships, and two major commitments from donors the Topalian Jazz Scholars Endowment funded by Wayne Basler and the Powell Jazz Scholars funded by Jim and Sandy Powell.

Currently every member of the ETSU Jazz Ensemble has a scholarship to perform in the group. "This generous support allows students to dedicate more time to their studies and performance instead of working many more hours," he said.

The third step was to increase the numbers of faculty members dedicated to the jazz program and the Department of Music overall.

The first new arrival to the faculty following Champouillon was Walters, an alumnus of the University of North Texas and a Grammy Award-winning sound engineer who quickly made his mark as the instructor of applied bass and jazz combos. Champouillon points out that it had previously been difficult to find bass players at ETSU, because there was no teacher or major in that instrument. But when Walters arrived, the Department of Music's bass studio grew to six majors within a year, and the Jazz Combo grew into separate combos that began performing throughout the area. Walters also teaches courses in sound engineering as part of his duties at ETSU.

Finding a guitar teacher who was equally adept at both classical and jazz guitar would also be important, and Champouillon said that finding Hannah, who has both bachelor's and master's degrees in classical and jazz guitar, was a "defining moment." "Hannah quickly turned a non-existent guitar studio into one stock-full of aspiring guitarists," he said. "Interest was so high that the ETSU Guitar Ensemble was started, and a second section of jazz history was offered."

Bubsey took over as the main instructor of jazz history along with his duties as instructor of trombone, and, Champouillon said, "the program would not be complete without Dr. Rande Sanderbeck's contributions as professor of percussion and performances with The Jazz Doctors." He pointed out that most jazz programs have faculty performing groups, and The Jazz Doctors appear throughout the region. They, along with the ETSU Jazz Ensemble, serve as ambassadors for the university's jazz program.

The next step in the development of the program includes the Department of Music applying this year for a new concentration in jazz performance under the bachelor of music degree. New courses are being written to expand the curriculum to include advanced improvisation, recording techniques, rhythm section techniques, studio production, and more.

And, Champouillon points out, an important part of any academic program is the placement of graduates, and the ETSU jazz program has several worth noting.

Among them are Justin Stanton, who has gone on to national acclaim, and Kelly Scollin, who is now a performer and educator in the U.S. Army Band system. After graduating from ETSU, Stanton attended the University of North Texas, which has one of the top jazz programs in the world, where he was a graduate assistant and solo jazz trumpet player while earning his master of music in jazz performance. He now lives and performs in New York City and tours internationally with Snarky Puppy and other artists.

"With more than 300 students taking courses in jazz studies each semester, the future of the program and potential degree is noteworthy," Champouillon says. "The next ten years of the jazz program at ETSU will surely be listened to and well-received."

For more information, call the ETSU Department of Music at (423) 439-4276 or Champouillon at 439-6955 or email

ETSU Jazz Ensemble

ETSU Jazz Ensemble