Success Stories

Alumnus keeps Big Band era alive

Jeff Uban

For Grand Valley State University alumnus Jeff Uban, landing a gig playing trumpet for the storied Glenn Miller Orchestra was a dream come true.
    
"To travel and play your instrument for concerts almost every night is definitely what all musicians dream of but few get to do," Uban said.

Uban is the solo trumpet chair in the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Performing around 300 dates a year, it is the longest continuously running jazz band — still going strong after Miller's death in 1944.

Uban finds it most rewarding to be able to bring back good memories for the audience and also create new ones.
     
"No matter their background, their career, or what their day was like, they can have a few moments to relax and share music with me. With great jazz music, you just feel good about yourself when you hear that swingin' rhythm; you can't help but be carried away by the groove of the music," Uban said.
    
Uban knew from age four that he wanted to be in music. "I owe a lot to my parents who encouraged, invested, and pushed me to practice and join as many ensembles and competitions as I did growing up. I'm very grateful," Uban added.
    
After traveling the world with the Blue Lake International Jazz Band and Concert Band in high school and attending University of Michigan-Flint for two years, Uban finished his undergraduate degree at Grand Valley in music performance.
     
During his educational stay at Grand Valley, Uban became a three-time finalist in the National Trumpet Competition, a jazz scholarship winner at the International Trumpet Guild and outstanding soloist at the Aquinas and Elmhurst jazz festivals.
     
Kurt Ellenberger, assistant professor of jazz studies at Grand Valley, recalled Uban as an extremely focused and probing student who never settled for mediocrity.
     
"For me, this is one of the most enjoyable (and rare) aspects of teaching; when a student becomes a peer, it is truly a moving and rewarding experience," Ellenberger added.
     
Uban loves studying performing music because of its ability to touch people's lives in a way that words cannot and for the sheer passion and internal joy that music brings to his life.
    
"My love is music and no matter how many times I have gone through struggles and battles with it, there is nowhere I would want to be other than on stage performing or writing music," Uban said.
     
In addition to playing with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Uban has his own musical group: The Jeff Uban Quartet. The group's debut album, 'Shift in Times' was released in 2008.
     
"As a musician and a composer, I have the ability to shape an emotion or mood and to express that in my own way and experiences," Uban said. "With my sound, music, or ideas, I can somehow touch someone else and connect with them, or open their minds to see their own story as music is being played."
     
Grand Valley associate professor of music, Richard Stoelzel, was Uban's musical mentor at Grand Valley. He described Uban as a talented composer who's first album is of first class quality.Similarly, Uban enjoys the ability to tell his own story through his music and compositions.
     
Uban's trumpeting talent has also been used during performances with several artists, including: Greg Gisbert, Wynton Marsalis, Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, Debbie Boone, and the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra, among others.

For more information about Uban or to hear samples from his debut CD, visit www.ubanmusic.com or iTunes.

by Abby Hartig

This story was filed with the tags: Arts, Impressive Jobs, Music, Undergraduate Alumni