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Director of Jazz Studies Joel Griffin passionate about "America’s classical music"

March 25, 2013 | Paul K. Logsdon


Joel Griffin’s turning point came in 1997, during his junior year at Webb City High School, when his band director took him to a music camp that featured Jim Widner’s Big Band.

“I had never been around great live jazz before,” Griffin says.

“They were performing a song called ‘Slim Jim,’ and saxophonist Kim Park took a solo. My mouth dropped open — I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

As a promising young saxophonist, Griffin focused like a laser on the art of jazz. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees while performing every chance he got.

Evangel University Jazz Orchestra

The Evangel University Jazz Orchestra will perform in concert Tuesday, April 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the Barnett Fine Arts Center.

“I learned early that it’s not enough to be inspired, but you also have to have direction,” Griffin says. “I was fortunate to have great teachers like Randy Hamm, who taught me the technical side — how to create a great sound, how to solo.”

Soon, he was performing with jazz legends such as The Cab Calloway Orchestra, Maynard Ferguson and Paul Mckee.

Griffin has also been teaching at the college level for nine years, and is about to wrap up his first year as director of jazz studies at Evangel University.

On Tuesday, April 2, he will direct the Evangel University Jazz Orchestra’s spring concert, at 7:30 p.m., in the Barnett Fine Arts Center. There is no charge, and the public is invited to attend.

“Jazz is America’s classical music,” says Griffin. “Teaching at Evangel is a great opportunity to work with very talented musicians. Teaching them about an art that is so important to this country and culture is an incredible opportunity.”

EU’s Jazz Orchestra performs contemporary compositions as well as jazz classics and sacred jazz arrangements. The ensemble offers students of all majors the opportunity to experience a variety of jazz styles.

“Honestly, this is the job I wanted from the time I graduated high school,” he says. “Evangel has a great group of music students who are eager to learn, and I am challenged by how hard they are willing to work.”

Read more about the Jazz Orchestra and other music ensembles at Evangel.


— By  Paul K. Logsdon, director of public relations for Evangel, and Kim Jeyaraj, graduate assistant

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