Jazz pianist and SMF Associate Artistic Director Marcus Roberts is from Jacksonville, Florida and his music has always been influenced by the early exposure to his mother’s gospel singing and the music of the local church. Mr. Roberts lost his sight at age five. His parents bought him a piano when he was eight years old and he was self-taught for four years. During that time, he played in the local Baptist church every Sunday. When he was twelve years old, he started his first formal piano lessons. He decided that he wanted to be a jazz pianist after listening to the music of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Mary Lou Williams and others on the radio. After high school, Mr. Roberts left Jacksonville to attend Florida State University (FSU) where he studied classical piano with Leonidus Lipovetsky. While at FSU, Mr. Roberts won the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, followed by first prize at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 1987. In 1985, at age 21, Mr. Roberts joined Wynton Marsalis’ band and toured and recorded with the trumpeter for the next six years. Mr. Roberts signed his first recording contract with BMG/ Novus in 1988 and completed six recordings for them before signing with Columbia Records early in 1994. All of his recordings have been critically acclaimed, and several have reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s traditional jazz chart.

Mr. Roberts has a deep respect for the contributions and achievements of the great masters of jazz and classical music. His highly innovative and original piano style as well as his philosophy of jazz improvisation is a merging of his love for great music from every era with his own creative imagination. Mr. Roberts first performed as a soloist with symphony orchestra in 1992 and since that time, he has performed often with orchestras all over the world. In the summer of 2002, Mr. Roberts performed with Maestro Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. In 2003, Mr. Roberts premiered his new arrangement of Gershwin’s Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra in Japan with the New Japan Philharmonic and then in Europe, with the Berlin Philharmonic for their annual Wäldbuhne concert. Mr. Roberts has been instrumental to the training and development of a large number of young musicians, including such great jazz artists as trumpeters Marcus Printup and Nicholas Payton, trombonist Ronald Westray, bassist Roland Guerin and drummer Jason Marsalis. Mr. Roberts became more involved in the formal instruction of young musicians and composers, first serving as a “Housewright Scholar” at the School of Music at Florida State University and then joining the faculty there the next year as an Assistant Professor where he still teaches. The Marcus Roberts Trio was founded in 1993 when Mr. Roberts began to study the lineage of great jazz trios, including those of Nat Cole, Oscar Peterson, Errol Garner, and Ahmad Jamal. With the founding of the Marcus Roberts Trio, Mr. Roberts had the goal of creating a whole new style of jazz trio playing. Although the piano has traditionally been the central focus of great jazz trios, Mr. Roberts prefers to have all musicians in the group share equally in shaping the direction of the music through changing its tempo, mood, texture, or form by using a system of musical cues. This philosophy is ideally suited for this trio because both Rodney Jordan and Jason Marsalis possess immense talent as individuals while sounding equally great as a unit. When the bass and drums share equally in controlling both the tempo and the mood of a piece, it creates a musical environment that sounds much bigger on the stage than a jazz trio. The trio also takes great pride in teaching and inspiring young musicians. They understand the importance of developing young talent, because this keeps jazz moving forward with real force from generation to generation. It is with this particular passion that Mr. Roberts has led the clinician team for Swing Central, the Savannah Music Festival’s high school jazz band workshop and competition.

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Jim Ketch’s career reveals a deep passion for the performance and teaching of music. He is a versatile and experienced artist with considerable skills in both the classical and jazz idioms. As a professional trumpeter and conductor, he has performed internationally in England, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. He has performed at 15 conferences of the International Trumpet Guild, including featured or solo performances at conferences held at the University of Kentucky, Ohio State University, Ithaca College, and Arizona State University. Ketch has appeared as soloist, recitalist, chamber musician and clinician in hundreds of concert and educational venues across the nation. His classical and jazz performances include solo recitals, guest artist appearances with orchestras, bands, and jazz ensembles, and a wide variety of chamber and commercial music. His versatility as a performer is quite notable. He performs music ranging from Louis Armstrong to Pat Metheny and from J.S. Bach to Toru Takimitsu.

Mr. Ketch is a Bach/Selmer Paris trumpet artist and clinician for the Conn-Selmer Corporation. Mr. Ketch has served as conductor for All-State Jazz Ensembles in Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, and New Hampshire. As a former graduate student of trumpeter David Hickman, Mr. Ketch was active in the Keystone Brass Institutes, in conjunction with the Summit Brass. Mr. Ketch has served a President of the North Carolina Chapter of the International Association of Jazz Educators and he was a co-recipient of the first Jazz Service Award presented by the University of North Carolina-Greensboro for distinguished service to jazz education in North Carolina. From 2001-2004, he was Chair of the Department of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His articles on trumpet issues and jazz studies have appeared in the Journal of the International Trumpet Guild, the Journal of the International Association of Jazz Education, and the North Carolina Music Educator.

As a freelance musician and educator Mr. Ketch has appeared with an extensive list of popular and jazz artists including: The Temptations, The Four Tops, Natalie Cole, Ben E. King, The Manhattan Transfer, John Pizzarelli, The Gene Krupa Orchestra, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Ray McKinley Orchestra, the Ted Weems Orchestra, The Marcus Roberts Trio, Tom Harrell, Byron Stripling, Slide Hampton, Herlin Riley, Victor Goines, Ron Westray, Steve Wilson, Terri Lynne Carrington, Greg Gisbert, Joe Magnarelli, Joel Frahm, and many others. Mr. Ketch is currently Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Professor Ketch is the recipient of the two highest teaching awards granted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mr. Ketch’s students have appeared in Conferences of the International Trumpet Guild as finalists in the Mock Orchestra and Jazz Improvisation Competitions. Former students perform professionally in orchestras and military ensembles, are active educators at both the university, collegiate and high school levels, and pursuing graduate study at leading universities across the country.

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