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04 November, 2008

VCU Jazz Performs at 10th Anniversary Celebration

VCU Jazz Quintet has been invited to provide music in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the VCUQatar campus.

A VCU Jazz Quintet has been invited to provide music in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the VCUQatar campus Four students have been selected for the trip in consultation with Jazz faculty: Jon Gibson (tenor saxophone), Karl Morse (guitar), David Ashby (bass), and Dean Christesen (drums), all of whom will perform in a jazz quintet along with VCU's Director of Jazz Studies, Professor Antonio Garcia (trombone/vocals).

Musical selections in the ensemble's repertoire for the six-day trip included "9 a.m." by Jon Gibson, "If" by Joe Henderson and arranged by Dean Christesen, "Ebony Eyes" by Stevie Wonder and arranged by Karl Morse, "The King Cake Walk (A New Orleans Strut)" and "Samba 'Legria" by Antonio Garcia, and a long list of jazz standards.

The combo will arrive November 11 in Doha, Qatar and lead educational workshops for students at The American School of Doha the next day, culminating in a Wednesday night concert featuring the VCU and ASD ensembles including the ASD Jazz Band and Chamber Singers. Admission to the Wednesday, November 12, 7 p.m. concert in the ASD Fine Arts Theater, billed as "A Very Special One Night Performance," is Qr 20 for both adults and students and are now on sale in the school's Central Office. Tickets will also be available at the door. Contact Mark Seay, instrumental music director, for more details: 588-6503 or

On Thursday, November 13 the quintet will perform for the VCUQatar Tenth Anniversary Gala. "This entire trip will be an extraordinary experience, educationally, musically, and culturally," said Garcia, "and we are grateful for the opportunity this invitation has afforded us."

Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar was established by the Virginia Commonwealth University and the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development to provide the highest level of design education and training for the citizens of Qatar, the Arabian Gulf region, and beyond. The degree programs combine contemporary approaches to design adapted to the cultures of the region. Virginia Commonwealth University is one of 84 leading Research Universities in the United States with one of the nation's great schools of the arts and design.

The purpose of Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar is to offer students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design, Graphic Design, or Interior Design. Through experienced teachers and a comprehensive four-year curriculum, the college nurtures creativity and innovation and develops the technical skills necessary for demonstrating that creativity.

The only fully accredited design program in the Middle East, VCUQatar is a campus of the prestigious VCU School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the Ministry of Education in Qatar accredit VCUQatar. The combination of all these elements has allowed VCUQatar to establish an enviable reputation as a university of excellence with a distinct identity. Graduates who earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree are prepared to assume careers and leadership roles in the professional field of their choice.

Since August 2000, the American School of Doha music program has moved from one level of strength and accomplishment to the next, along with the rest of the school. School enrollment in 2000 was 450; now it is over 1850 (pre-K through 12), with applications on the waiting lists. It's ASD's intention to see that its students can carry on developing their musicianship after high school, comfortably finding some outlet at the university level playing in the marching band, concert band, or jazz band or taking private lessons: a lifelong love of active music-making. The ASD's jazz band is under the direction of Mr. Mark Seay.

Jonathan Gibson is from Ashland, Virginia, a small town fifteen miles north of Richmond. He is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University majoring in jazz saxophone and currently studying with Profs. J.C. Kuhl and Skip Gailes. Jonathan has also studied flute, clarinet, and piano privately at VCU. While in high school, Jonathan participated in VCU's Greater Richmond High School Jazz Band for two years and also attended VCU Jazz Day twice. Since enrolling at VCU, he has been a member of Jazz Orchestra I for the past four years (including as lead alto and lead tenor), as well as being in a VCU Small Jazz Ensemble for all but one semester. He performs with some of the jazz and funk bands that play the bar circuit in the Richmond region, plus more formal gigs with some of VCU Jazz faculty at various events. Jonathan plans to complete his B.M. Performance degree in Jazz Studies in December 2009 and would like to pursue a career in music, possibly as a freelance performer and private instructor.

Karl Morse was born and raised in Richmond. He became familiar with VCU Jazz Studies while a two-year member of its Greater Richmond High School Jazz Band, as well as attending VCU's annual Jazz Day. After attending two semesters at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, he moved back to his hometown to study at VCU, where he is currently in his junior year. He has studied privately with Profs. Mike Ess, Adam Larrabee, and Steve Ashby and has been a member of Jazz Orchestra I and various Small Jazz Ensembles over the years. Karl enjoys playing freelance jazz gigs, performing with the Richmond Afrobeat Movement and several other rock and folk ventures, and casually plays the mandolin, lap steel, and bass. He intends to graduate in December 2009, thereafter seeking the continued study of guitar plus composing, touring, and eventually graduate school.

David Ashby is a Charlottesville, Virginia native and a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has played bass since high school and has also been known to beat on a drum set occasionally. While at VCU he has performed with its Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Orchestras I and II, and various Small Jazz Ensembles. He is currently a student of Prof. Victor Dvoskin and has had the honor of performing with most of the VCU faculty at various events. His main group outside of school, The Former Champions, features a few other VCU Jazz students, has played shows up and down the U.S. east coast, and will be touring this upcoming summer. David expects to graduate in Spring of 2009 and wishes to pursue music as far as he possibly can by venturing out on the road and trying to share his music with anyone who wants to listen.

Dean Christesen is from Fairfax Station, Virginia and is now a junior Jazz Studies major at VCU. Primarily studying drums and percussion, he has also performed in classical guitar and vocal ensembles and now plays the piano and mandolin for leisure. While in high school, Dean participated in two VCU Jazz Day events; and as a college student he has performed with the VCU Percussion Ensemble, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Jazz Orchestra I, Symphony Orchestra, and various Small Jazz Ensembles. His principal teachers are Profs. Tony Martucci and Brian Jones. In the music-friendly city of Richmond, Dean is a member of the folk-rock band Mason Brothers, a trombone-drum jazz duo called Verbatim, and other various jazz and free-jazz concoctions. Upon graduating in Spring 2010, he hopes to combine music and writing for a career in music journalism. In December 2007, he created, an online journal and resource for Richmond's jazz community, in hopes of strengthening that community and unifying Richmond's exciting under-the-radar jazz, experimental, and improvised music scenes. He is a contributor for and the Urban Views Weekly newspaper.

Antonio Garcia is an Associate Professor of Music and the Director of Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he founded the Music Business Emphasis within the B.A. Music degree. He has received commissions to write jazz, symphonic, chamber, and solo compositions and has freelanced as trombonist, bass trombonist, or pianist with over 70 internationally renowned artists and organizations including Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Phil Collins, the New Orleans Symphony, and the New York Metropolitan Opera Company. He is also an avid scat-singer. Tony is International Trombone Association Journal Associate Jazz Editor and past editor of the IAJE Jazz Education Journal. His books and articles are widely published, including his new book, Cutting the Changes: Jazz Improvisation via Key Centers (Kjos Music), which offers musicians of all ages the opportunity to improvise over standard tunes using just their major scales. He has taught and performed vocally and instrumentally in Canada, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and across the U.S. Previous posts include at Northwestern University and at Northern Illinois University, where he received NIU's Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching award and was nominated as its candidate for 1992 CASE U.S. Professor of the Year. Visit his web site at