Faculty Insights: “Adaptation and Evolution” by Brett Stamps

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Prof. Stamps

As a retired professor, it is a pleasure to reflect back on my experience at SIUE. When I arrived at the University in Fall 1979, I brought an extensive performance background with me (U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors, Stan Kenton Orchestra, University of Miami Concert Jazz Band, 4 years of professional show work in Miami) but limited teaching experience (1 year at Miami-Dade Community College New World Center, graduate teaching assistantship experience at University of Miami). In addition to developing and adapting teaching skills to fit the unique environment at SIUE, I also was charged with developing a jazz performance degree (we graduated the first majors in 1982 including recently retired Director of Jazz Activities, Rick Haydon). I am still grateful to then-music chair, Dr. William Tarwater, for his assistance and guidance in implementing the new degree over a 3-year period.

As I look back, adaptation and evolution seems to best define my career at SIUE. As the jazz program grew, each faculty member we added (Rick Haydon, Reggie Thomas, various adjunct) brought a new dimension to the program. We all adapted and evolved as new technologies, facilities and opportunities presented themselves. A diverse group of students electing to major in or study jazz (including several of my own children) continued to present us with unique challenges.

It seems to me that our ability as faculty to adapt and evolve has produced similar qualities in our students, and it is a pleasure to look around and see so many former students doing well in a variety of careers. A number of former students are now serving as tenure-track or adjunct faculty at colleges and universities both in and out of the St. Louis area (including my son Dave at Gustavus Adolphus College). Some are teaching in intermediate or secondary public or private school settings (including my very supportive wife, Kim). There are students making their primary living as performers and several that have formed their own production companies. Jazz St. Louis is thriving both as the primary St. Louis venue for presenting jazz (Bob Bennett books the artists) and providing educational opportunities to area high school students (Jazz U directed by Phil Dunlap).

I feel that SIUE provides students with a unique skill set to pursue a career in music. It has been enjoyable not only to observe students evolve while they are in school, but to observe how they continue to evolve and develop their skills after they have left SIUE. Adaptation and evolution are essential. In my own case, I took advantage of an opportunity to learn how to perform traditional jazz when I turned 50, and uncovered a variety of performance opportunities that have allowed me to continue performing jazz in a variety of settings worldwide (including a trip to Germany). I’ve even passed along opportunities to former student Cody Henry who is rapidly surpassing me in this genre.

I look back on my time at SIUE with great pride, and I am confident that Rick Haydon, Jason Swagler, Garrett Schmidt, Miles Vandiver, Zeb Briskovich and Adaron Jackson will continue the tradition of jazz education excellence. I still enjoy my connection to SIUE as an adjunct jazz trombone instructor, as well as directing the SIUE Alumni Jazz band at the newly remodeled Jazz St. Louis venue. In addition to my continuing connection with SIUE, I perform with Cornet Chop Suey, the St. Louis Jazz Orchestra, the Jim Widner Big Band, the Dave Dickey Big Band as well as free lancing in the St. Louis area. I also serve as a Board Member for the St. Louis Jazz Club and the St. Louis Low Brass Collective.

— Brett Stamps, Professor Emeritus

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