Composer/conductor/trombonist JC Sanford recently returned to his home state of Minnesota after spending over 20 years in Boston and New York City. A disciple of the legendary composer/trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, he has had his works performed by Dave Liebman, John Abercrombie, Ingrid Jensen, Lew Soloff, and others. His jazz orchestra CD “Views from the Inside” garnered international acclaim and received the coveted Aaron Copland Fund Recording Grant. The ensemble has also been recognized as a “Rising Star Big Band” in DownBeat Magazine’s Critic’s Poll the past 3 years. As a conductor, he is a member of the twice-Grammy-nominated John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, and also conducts the Alan Ferber Nonet +Strings, the Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble, John Ellis’ Ice Siren, and conducted the Alice Coltrane Orchestra featuring Ravi Coltrane, Charlie Haden, and Jack DeJohnette before her death. He also curated the Brooklyn-based creative large ensemble series known as “Size Matters.” He was a member of the BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop led by Jim McNeely and longtime contractor for the BMI/New York Orchestra that read and performed new student works. 

Asuka Kakitani is a composer, arranger, and conductor. She is the founder of her 18-piece big band, the Asuka Kakitani Jazz Orchestra. Their 2013 debut album ”Bloom” earned critical acclaim and was selected as one of the best albums on the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, All About Jazz, Lucid Culture, and DownBeat Magazine. Kakitani was featured on the international radio program PRI’s The World, and selected as a DownBeat Critic Poll Rising Star Arranger. Her awards include the BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize, the Manny Albam Commission, the Composer Assistance Grants from the American Music Center, Brooklyn Arts Fund, and recently was a recipient of the Jerome Fund for New Music from the American Composers Forum. Kakitani was a member of BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop 2004 to 2007 under guidance of Jim McNeely, Mike Abene, and Mike Holober. Kakitani has resided in Minnesota since 2016 after living in New York for 11 years.

Adam Meckler is a trumpet player, composer, and educator living in Minneapolis, MN. He is an Edwards Instrument Co. Performing Artist and Clinician, and leads The Adam Meckler Orchestra (AMO), an 18 piece big band that plays his original compositions. The AMO’s debut album ‘When the Clouds Look Like This’ was listed among 2014’s Best Jazz Releases by iTunes. Adam holds faculty positions in trumpet and Jazz at Macalester College, and MacPhail Center for Music. He tours and records with Youngblood Brass Band and Nooky Jones, and plays regularly with a host of bands around the Twin Cities including Lulu’s Playground, The Jana Nyberg Group, Jack Brass Band, The Graydon Peterson Quartet, and The Pete Whitman X-Tet. His upcoming Adam Meckler Orchestra release ‘Magnificent Madness’ will be available via Shifting Paradigm Records Spring, 2019.

Saxophonist and composer Aaron Hedenstrom has performed across the United States as a jazz saxophonist, clinician, and composer. Aaron has written numerous big band works, string arrangements, small group pieces, and chamber works. Some of his collaborations have included saxophonist Bob Reynolds, the University of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band, vocalist Marlene Verplanck, vocalist Don Most and Starbucks artist of the week S. Carey. As a saxophone performing artist, Aaron has been featured as a guest artist by universities such as University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, Wichita State University and Eastern Washington University. Aaron has performed at top-tier music venues nationwide including the Dakota Jazz Club, Snug Harbor, the Next Generation Jazz Festival, Scat Jazz Lounge, and the Eau Claire Festival. Aaron exclusively plays and endorses Keilwerth saxophones. He has scores published with Sierra Music and Really Good Music. He also co-hosts “The Arrangers Podcast” with fellow UNT alum Drew Zaremba.

Dave Stamps is a composer/arranger, trombonist, and educator based in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. His music has been performed by academic institutions and professional ensembles worldwide including the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and the Romanian National Jazz Radio Big Band featuring Luiza Zan. He writes for jazz chamber groups (instrumental and vocal), studio orchestras, and both traditional and contemporary big bands. Many of his works are available through UNC Jazz Press or his own publishing arm, March of the Purple Penguin Music. Always looking for ways to be a creative catalyst, he has had an integral role in the development of the former national Center for Jazz Composition and today’s more expansive International Society of Jazz Arrangers & Composers (ISJAC) of which he serves as Vice-President. Dave is currently Assistant Professor of Music, Director of Jazz Studies, and Director of Arts Administration at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN.

Kari Musil has been composing music for jazz orchestra since 1981. Her compositions have been performed by college ensembles – Moorhead State University, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities, Duluth), and Northland College (Ashland, WI), as well as community ensembles – Big Time Jazz Orchestra (Duluth, MN), Big Woods Big Band (northwestern Wisconsin), NOVA Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, BADFIT, and IMP ORK in the Twin Cities. In 2011 she received a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant to record her first album, The Music of Kari Musil, featuring poet J. Otis Powell, with the NOVA Jazz Orchestra. Ms. Musil, although mostly self-taught, has studied large ensemble jazz composition with Dave Rivello (Eastman School of Music) via Skype since 2012. She has also been greatly influenced by her long-time teacher, Ed Berger. Ms. Musil studied theory/composition and jazz studies at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, and received a M.M. Music Education from the University of MN at Duluth. After teaching middle and high school band for the past 20 years, she recently retired to devote more time to composition. In 2014 she received a Jerome Foundation JFund award from the American Composers Forum to create and write music for the Freedom of Jazz Orchestra which has the unique mission of connecting original big band jazz composition with musicians in the community whose lack of formal musical education opportunities may have prevented them from participating in this genre of music. This endeavor is a direct extension of Ms. Musil’s long time passion for teaching adolescent and adult students to read music in order to become independent musicians. She is currently playing tenor saxophone with the Swing Sisterhood Big Band.