MSU Professors of Jazz

The MSU Professors of Jazz are members of the jazz faculty in the Michigan State University College of Music. The group was established in 2000. Its artistic director, Rodney Whitaker, is director of the Jazz Studies program at MSU. (Download high-resolution photo of the MSU Professors of Jazz here. Pictured above, left to right, are Reginald Thomas, piano; Randy Gelispie, drums; Rodney Whitaker, bass; Diego Rivera, tenor saxophone; Etienne Charles, trumpet; and Michael Dease, trombone.)

Since its inception, the group has completed residencies at the Detroit Symphony Hall, the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts, and the Arts League of Michigan Jazz at the Center. Through these residencies, the group has performed in concert with several notable international jazz artists, including Vanessa Rubin, Buster Williams, Jon Faddis, Jon Carl Hendricks, Jimmy Cobb, Wycliffe Gordon, Joe Temperley, Walter Blanding, Andre Hayward, Cyrus Chestnut, Eric Reed, Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Wynton Marsalis, Ali Jackson, Maya Orr, Marcus Belgrave, Donald Walden, Marcus Printup, Gerald Wilson Big Band, and Ingrid Jensen. In addition, the group has performed as the opening act for Kenny Garrett at Detroit Symphony Hall.

This “hard-bop” band has now expanded to a seven-piece ensemble featuring Etienne Charles (trumpet), Randy Gelispie (drums), Diego Rivera (tenor saxophone), Xavier Davis (piano), Randy Napoleon (jazz guitar), Michael Dease (trombone), and Rodney Whitaker (bass). It continues to perform music from the jazz canon, including standards, jazz classics, and original compositions. Members of the Professors of Jazz perform internationally, nationally, and locally to support Michigan jazz presenters and educators. 

The group offers:

  • Concerts for young people, produced as part of the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts' “Jazz Kats” series
  • Concerts and workshops in high schools and colleges
  • Master classes
  • Lecture demonstrations

The group considers invitations to perform at jazz festivals, concert series, and clubs and to serve in jazz residencies.

For more information about the MSU Professors of Jazz, contact the Jazz Studies program at (517) 432-6449 or e-mail

MSU Professors of Jazz release new CD, Better Than Alright.
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