Director, Valley Jazz Cooperative
As a performer, composer, conductor, and educator, Russell Schmidt has been collaborating with world-class musicians while also shaping future artists for more than three decades. A deeply creative pianist, he has shared the stage with such celebrated performers as Carl Allen, Roxy Coss, Eddie Daniels, Nick Finzer, John Hollenbeck, Gerry Mulligan, Lucas Pino, Arturo Sandoval, and Clark Terry. He has been featured as a guest soloist with Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band in a performance at Carnegie Hall, as well as with the Eastman Jazz Ensemble at an alumni tribute concert to famed jazz pedagogue Rayburn Wright. Russell has also headlined jazz events with his own groups at such venues as the MIM Music Theater, Kilbourn Hall, and The Nash. Additionally, he has served as keyboard soloist with more than 30 professional orchestras, including performances with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center and the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall.
Among Russell’s recordings as a leader are Anachromysticism (2012), which highlights his wide-ranging efforts as a jazz composer, Jazz Triptych, Volume I – The Sacred (2018), a collection of hymns and spirituals reimagined in the jazz language, and his most recent release, the companion album Jazz Triptych, Volume II – The Secular (2019). He has also collaborated as a sideman on albums released by Chris Buzzelli, Zac Carson, Paul Ferguson, Barbara Knight, Vicki McDermitt, and the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra (featuring Joe Lovano).
As a composer and arranger, Russell has written for artists as varied as saxophonists Bob Berg and Michael Brecker, the Ying String Quartet, and Rhythm & Brass. His works as a composer/arranger have been released by Advance Music, GIA Publications, the Penfield Commission Project, and VJC Publications. Russell is a former recipient of the Utah Arts Festival Jazz Composition Commission, which led to the premiere of his extended work for jazz ensemble, Patience. He also wrote for the Toledo Jazz Orchestra during a five-year appointment as TJO Artistic Director, during which he collaborated with such guest artists as Terence Blanchard, Ken Peplowski, and Humberto Ramirez.
Russell is a sought-after adjudicator, clinician, and guest conductor, having worked at jazz festivals and with school/universities from New York to California. After a long, distinguished career in academia, he joined Music Serving the Word Ministries in June 2014 as Coordinator of Education and Keyboardist. In early 2016, he founded MSW’s educational outreach program, the Valley Jazz Cooperative, which he continues to direct. Additionally, he hosts the VJC Q&T (Questions & Tangents) podcast, which explores the nature of creativity in musicians and other artists. Previously, Russell served as Director of Jazz Studies at Bowling Green State University and the University of Utah. He also held faculty appointments at Northern Arizona University, the University of North Carolina–Asheville, and the Eastman School of Music, where he co-conducted the Eastman Studio Orchestra. A student of Rayburn Wright, Russell holds two degrees from Eastman.
Ensemble Director, Valley Jazz Cooperative
Paul Brewer, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, loves performing jazz, rock, soul, funk, Latin, and classical music styles. As a saxophonist, he has had the opportunity to perform with such artists as the Temptations, the Four Tops, Doc Severinsen, Diana Ross, the Phoenix Symphony, Michael Bublé, David Foster, Frankie Valli, and Renee Olstead. Paul has also worked as an Artist-in-Residence for the Peoria and Roosevelt School Districts and served on the board of the Arizona Association for Jazz Education.
He earned his Bachelor of Music Education from Northern Arizona University, and later earned his Master’s degree in Music Education with emphasis in Jazz Studies from Arizona State University. As an educator himself, Paul has taught music at Barry Goldwater, Paradise Valley, and Marcos de Niza High Schools as well as Scottsdale Community College. Currently, Paul is the Director of Jazz Studies at Mesa Community College. In December 2018, he joined the Valley Jazz Cooperative team as the Director of the EVJC Sapphire Ensemble.
Rhythm Section Clinician, Valley Jazz Cooperative
A graduate of Arizona State University’s School of Music, Rob Moore has been working as a free-lance professional drummer in the Metro-Phoenix area for the past 18 years. His work experience also includes a stint with Yamaha Pro-Audio. More recently, Rob served as Adjunct Faculty at Scottsdale Community College where he taught drum set and directed small jazz ensembles.
Rob now works for Music Serving the Word as its resident audio engineer and drummer for live events and various recording projects. He also enjoys a close collaboration with MSW’s Visual Media area, with which he developed the innovative electronic music score for Incarnate.
Rob continues to perform with various musicians and groups in the community, including the Inner Journeys Trio, led by pianist Bob Ravenscroft. Among his more recent recordings are To Belarus...With Love by Vicki McDermitt, Jazz Triptych, Volume I – The Sacred and Jazz Triptych, Volume II – The Secular by Russell Schmidt, and Phantasmagoria by Bob Ravenscroft and the Inner Journeys Trio.
Whether during rehearsals, VJC Hangs, or festival appearances, the Valley Jazz Cooperative experience is always greatly enhanced through collaboration with musicians from all across the country. The list of outstanding artist-teachers supporting VJC educational activities through clinics and lessons has included:
Saxophonists Dr. Robert Miller (University of Idaho, Emeritus)
Lucas Pino (https://www.lucaspino.com/)
Dave Schmidt (Glendale Community College)
Alexa Tarentino (https://alexatarantino.com/)
Brice Winston (Tucson Jazz Institute)
John Wojciechowski (http://www.jwojojazz.com/)
Trumpeters Tito Carrillo (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Peter Margulies (Utah Symphony)
Denny Monce (Arizona State University)
Jack Schantz (University of Akron, Emeritus)
Dr. Vern Sielert (University of Idaho)
Trombonist Paul Ferguson (Case Western Reserve University)
Pianist Dr. Robert Washut (University of Northern Iowa, Emeritus)
Guitarist Chris Buzzelli (Bowling Green State University, Emeritus)
Bassists Chris Finet (Northern Arizona University)
Dwight Kilian (former MSW Director of Music)
Mike King (Mesa Community College)
Drummer Robby Carrillo (Mesa Community College)
Percussionist Drew Worden (New England Conservatory)
Vocalist Vicki McDermitt (https://www.vickimcdermitt.com/)