Evangel Profile

Joel Griffin: Director of Jazz Studies

March 26, 2014


Joel Griffin had never been around great live jazz music until his junior year of high school. That’s when his band director took him to a music camp that featured Jim Widner’s Big Band. During a show, the group’s saxophonist Kim Park took off on a solo that altered Griffin’s course.

“My mouth dropped open and I knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Griffin says.

Griffin is a native of Southern Missouri and graduate of Missouri Southern State University with a B.A. in Saxophone Performance. He earned his master’s degree in Theory/Composition from Missouri State University prior to joining Evangel’s faculty as director of jazz studies. He remains an active performer, joining  jazz great Wayne Bergeron for shows across the country and taking part in numerous jazz festivals, such as the Drury University Jazz Festival and Pittsburg State Jazz Festival, each year.


How did you first develop a love for music?
My mother is a singer and piano player. She used to lead worship and play at church. In turn, I went to a lot of rehearsals and hung out with a lot of really great musicians from an early age. It was all a natural progression.

What has been the highlight of your musical performance career?
I’ve been blessed to play with a lot of great musicians. Some of the big moments have been playing with Grammy Award winner Billy Hunt, the Cab Calloway Orchestra and Maynard Ferguson.

What is the best aspect of the music department at Evangel?
The students and the faculty. We have a great combination of talented students and a great faculty who are highly committed to seeing students become the best that they can be.

For students, what are the benefits of attending a smaller school while studying music?
The personal attention you will receive from the faculty.  At EU, your professors will know your name and are always willing to help you on a one-on-one basis.

What type of music do enjoy, just for personal entertainment in your free time?
I love almost all types of music, but I’m a jazz musician. I love listening, playing, practicing and teaching Jazz. And because jazz is America’s music it makes it that much more special to me.

What is your favorite part about students?
With the jazz students it’s their eagerness to learn new things and their excitement as they discover their own musical voice.

What is the best part about working in music at a school that is Christ-centered?
Working with students who don’t just like music, but feel called to minister through music. Whether in the church, school, studio or on stage, these students want to share the love of Christ through their art, and that is what it is all about.

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