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Department of Music




Jazz has been an important part of the music curriculum at Messiah College since 1969 when Dr. William R. Higgins, Professor Emeritus, founded the first big band. In 1996 Dr. William Stowman took over as only the second director in what is now a very rich forty-four year history of the ensemble.


In recent years, jazz has played a more significant role at Messiah through concerts, recordings, and an active touring schedule.  Currently, the Department of Music at Messiah is home to two big bands, two jazz combos, a jazz singing ensemble, courses in jazz improvisation, and applied study of jazz improvisation for all instruments.


As a result of the jazz program's identity and desire to complement the mission of the College, we are committed to the commissioning of new sacred arrangements for jazz ensemble as well as performing standard swing tunes and modern arrangements. In a partnership with Pennsylvania arranger and composer W. Roy Mitchell, this sacred series has grown signficantly.  In 2005, many of these arrangements were archived on a recording title, Swing, Sweet Spirit. This recording also featured performances by artist-in-residence Tim Warfield and by jazz faculty member, Kirk Reese.  The Jazz Ensemble will record their second album in 2013.


The Messiah College Jazz Ensemble was selected to perform at the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association's annual conference in 2010 and will perform at the conference again in April, 2013.