It always helps to learn from the best. That’s a concept the UH Moores School of Music is following with its new artist residency for the jazz program: the Vacek Artist Residency.
Jeff Vacek is a former student at the school and wanted to give back to a program that he says helped him to be successful in all areas of his life. Vacek still plays the guitar, but after graduating in 1999, he went on to build an IT business in the Houston area. Remembering what occasionally visiting artists did for him as a student, he decided to help the Moores School of Music bring in well-known jazz musicians.
“I just remember the amazing impact that playing with professional artists and interacting with professional artists, and master-classing with and, you know, basically getting taught by professional artist how much of an impact and an amazing experience that was. I want to be able to provide that for current and future students.”
Noe Marmolejo is the school’s jazz director. He says when Vacek approached him about contributing to the jazz program, he thought the best way to do that was to create an artist residency. Marmolejo will invite a different professional musician to teach and perform for one week each semester.
“We’ve had a history of bringing great artists to the school in terms of the jazz area. We have a history for it, but everything that we’ve done has not been necessarily long-term, over an extended period of time. You know, it costs money to bring people in.”
Money won’t be a problem — as Vacek offered the school $125,000 over five years.
Having different musicians perform at the school of music for many years, Marmolejo knows a number of possible artists to invite for the residency.
“It is a very thoughtful process, you want to make sure that we’re picking the right person that fits the ensemble, because every year it’s a different group of people, you know. And so, you can’t just go, oh I want blankity-blank, and not think that that might not fit.”
The inaugural artist-in-residence was jazz pianist and former University of North Texas professor Dan Haerle. Haerle topped off his one-week teaching stance with a performance with students at the Moores Opera House last week.