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Milligan Jazz Ensemble performs Pulitzer Prize worthy composition

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, TN (April 8, 2009) – Guest artists Charles Goodwin, Dr. John Cooper and Loretta Bowers will join The Milligan College Jazz Ensemble to perform a spring concert, Monday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Seeger Memorial Chapel on the Milligan College campus.

Directed by Rick Simerly, associate professor of music at Milligan, the 22-ensemble ensemble will perform a seven-movement, Pulitzer Prize nominated composition entitled “The Baecker Jazz Worship Service,” written by Cooper and named for Garth and Terry Baecker. Cooper will be on hand to narrate and direct some of the movements which will feature Bowers as vocalist.

“This concert is sure to delight guests,” said Simerly. “Jazz pianist Charles Goodwin will open the concert with songs from his new CD, ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.’ The Milligan Jazz Ensemble will then take the stage to perform the ‘The Baecker Jazz Worship Service,’ which includes such favorites as ‘Doxology’ and ‘This Little Light of Mine.’”

Goodwin, a local jazz favorite, was honored by Milligan College in 2006 as one of East Tennessee’s “Statesmen of Jazz.” His new CD is a work consisting entirely of church hymns.  Goodwin has toured extensively with the Glenn Miller Band, The Tommy Dorsey Band and Frank Sinatra, Jr., to name a few. He has performed with comedians Red Skelton and Bob Hope and singers such as Patti Page, Ray Eberle, Bob Eberly, Carroll Lawrence, Anita Bryant and Johnny Ray. He has written numerous arrangements, one of which was used by the Charlie Spivak Orchestra on their last album, which was nominated for a Grammy Award. He has arranged for and led his own big band since 1965 and has performed concerts with the Kingsport Symphony and the Western Piedmont Symphony. In the last year, Goodwin has toured 20 states with the Southern Fried Jazz Band based in Charlotte, N.C.

A well-known jazz artist and composer, Cooper serves as director of jazz studies at Western Illinois University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Wayne State University, a master’s degree in music composition from Bowling Green State University, and a doctor of philosophy degree in music composition from New York University, where he studied with famed composer/pianist, Jim McNeely. Cooper has performed with numerous jazz artists including Jon Faddis, Carl Fontana, Jim McNeely, Clark Terry and John Fedchock, as well as other national touring acts including Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lewis, The Temptations, Rich Little, Joan Rivers, The Four Tops and The Spinners. His first solo CD release, “Watching for Watchung Plaza,” received critical acclaim from Detroit Free Press music critic, Mark Stryker. Cooper was commissioned to write a jazz worship service by Garth and Terry Baecker in 2007. “The Baecker Jazz Worship Service” was recorded in Chicago by The John Cooper Orchestra in October of 2007 and was later nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

“Dr. Cooper has done a masterful job of infusing many different jazz styles in this composition,” said Simerly. “From an avant-garde opening, a Brubeck style 5/4 movement, a New Orleans street beat and the swinging ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ this piece is very diverse in jazz styles.”

Bowers, a   celebrated vocalist throughout the region, began singing in church with her family at a very early age. Known as the Bowers Family Singers, she and her family performed throughout the South. Bowers later became a member of the National One Company, the traveling production of the Broadway hit, “Ain’t Misbehavin.” Her style and stage presence have been described as exciting and electrifying and she continues to dazzle audiences wherever she performs. Bowers had a leading role in the recent original Milligan musical, “The Gospel According to Jazz,”  and currently leads her own group, Retta B and the Blessed Hammond Trio.  She recorded her first CD, “Christmas   Melody,” last fall and plans to release a brand new CD in Fall 2009 consisting entirely of Gospel selections.

The Milligan Jazz Ensemble, now in its eighth year, consists of Milligan students as well as students and adults from throughout the region. Featured soloists will be, Mark Thie, piano; Dick Davis and Kyle Bothof, saxophone; Matt Hall, trombone; Sloan Hill, Steven Cooper, Jason Bailey and Shane Ladd, trumpet; Jake Merrick, bass; and Eddie Dalton, drums.

“Although the composition was written as a worship service, we are not treating it as such,” said Simerly. “We want the audience to feel free to applaud soloists and the movements. It will truly be a unique and exciting evening of music.”

The performance is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Milligan College music department at 461.423.8723 or music@milligan.edu.


MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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