Jazz superstar Steve Wiest hired as professor and orchestra director at DU

Jazz superstar Steve Wiest hired as professor and orchestra director at DU
Courtesy of Steve Wiest

The jazz program at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music is about to get a lot more competitive. Officials from the school's jazz studies and commercial music departments announced this week that Grammy-nominated jazz trombonist, composer and arranger Steve Wiest will join DU's faculty this fall as an associate professor. Wiest will teach courses in jazz studies and commercial music. Just as significantly, he has already committed to building a new jazz orchestra, one that will feature a collaboration between department students and players from the school's classical orchestra.

Wiest, currently an associate professor at the University of North Texas College of Music, boasts an impressive résumé in the realms of professional jazz and academia. In the 1980s, Wiest played with the Maynard Ferguson Band, playing dual roles as a trombonist and arranger. He appears on the albums Storm and Live from San Francisco. He wrote the tune "South 21st Shuffle," and played in an all-star version of Ferguson's band in 2006. In 2007, Wiest earned a Grammy nomination for his arrangement of "Besame Mucho" on Maynard Ferguson's final album, The One and Only.

Wiest has also picked up Grammy nominations for Best instrumental Arrangement, Best Instrumental Composition and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. At the University of North Texas College of Music, Wiest has played a key role in leading the school's One O'Clock Lab Band jazz ensemble, as well as the U-Tubes, the school's trombone band.

Wiest's arrival at Lamont is set to bolster the school's reputation as a destination for jazz students, credentials that will align with DU's already considerable role as a classical music school. The announcement came along with praise from Wiest for the school, the faculty and also the Newman Center for the Performing Arts on the DU campus.

"I am thrilled to be joining the Lamont family," Wiest said in a release. "The Newman Center is simply one of the best facilities for creative endeavor anywhere in the world, and I can't wait to be a part of all the exciting things happening there. With the wonderful students and state-of-the-art faculty at Lamont I am so fortunate to be starting this new adventure in my life."


According to DU's press release, students loudly cheered news of Wiest's arrival during a recent rehearsal. Lamont director Nancy Cochran and Jazz Studies and Commercial Music Department Chair Malcolm Lynn Baker insist that Wiest's addition to the faculty has transformative potential.

"We are very excited to welcome Steve to our jazz family. His creativity, energy, and passionate interest in 'jazz advocacy' promise to transform Lamont and the musical landscape through his exciting initiatives," Baker said in a release.

The most exciting of those initiatives is Wiest's plans for Lamont's jazz orchestra. Months before Wiest's arrival on campus, university officials are pointing to "an entirely new 21st Century ensemble combining a jazz rhythm section with performers from the school's classical and vocal divisions."

Lamont isn't the only local university to boast a jazz superstar in its ranks. Internationally acclaimed trumpeter, composer and arranger Ron Miles has long been a fixture at Metropolitan State University of Denver. With such jazz superstars at the center of the academic scene in Denver, the city could very well see the arrival of more hopeful players and composers from around the world.

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