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Self-taught Evangel musician is selected for Missouri’s All-Collegiate Jazz Ensemble

April 1, 2014 | Irene Kanthan

Evangel junior Desiree Bonitz is a multi-instrumentalist from a family of musicians.

“When I was three years old, my grandmother started teaching me how to play the piano,” Bonitz says.

As Bonitz grew up in York, Pa., she realized her gift for music when she was able to learn songs by herself at a young age.

“I was self-taught through middle school and high school,” she says. “I learned how to play the piano, violin and percussion.”

After years of playing in her high school band and orchestra, Bonitz decided to major in music performance at Evangel University.

“For someone who did not have a lot of formal training, her dedication to music impressed me,” says Joel Griffin, director of jazz studies. “Desiree is a well-rounded musician both as a jazz pianist for the EU Jazz Orchestra as well as a violinist for the university orchestra.”

Griffin eventually nominated her to be part of the 2014 All-Collegiate Jazz Ensemble, sponsored by the Missouri Music Educators Association (MMEA). The MMEA organizes the ensemble every four years. Participants include students from all universities and four-year colleges across Missouri.

Bonitz was selected for the jazz ensemble, which was directed by Grammy-nominated alto saxophonist Brad Leali.

“I was surprised to find out I was selected,” Bonitz says. “Playing at the event was a nerve-wracking experience, but it was an honor to play with these highly-skilled musicians.”

“A chance to play with musicians from other schools challenges our students’ performance,” Griffin says.

“The reason I play music is to give glory to God,” Bonitz says, “and my professors here have put a lot of time and energy into helping me become a better musician.”

Bonitz hopes to become a music professor and inspire college students the way her professors have motivated her. Until then, she can be found performing a variety of musical genres in recitals, performances, forums and juries at Evangel University.

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