Category Archives: Faculty

Ben Schmidt-Swartz

  • Bachelor of Music, Jazz Studies, Western Michigan University
  • Master of Fine Arts, Saxophone Performance, Western Michigan University

Ben did his undergraduate work in saxophone at Western Michigan University. Where he had the opportunity to play with some of the world’s leading jazz musicians including Paquito D’Rivera, Kurt Elling, Fred Hersch, Billy Hart, Bob Mintzer, Stefon Harris, and Donny McCaslin. Also through WMU, Ben had the opportunity to perform at the Detroit International Jazz Festival, The Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival, and at the Jazz Educators Network (JEN).

After graduating from WMU with his undergraduate degree, Schmidt-Swartz released his first record “Mastermind”, co-lead by drummer Nelson Oliva. Schmidt-Swartz and Oliva went on tour with “Mastermind,” performing for enthusiastic audiences. Schmidt-Swartz later released a duo recording with drummer Vincent Davis, “Live at Grace.”

Ben lives and studies in Kalamazoo again and is currently working on his Master’s degree. He is delighted to have the opportunity to work with such fantastic teachers and staff at Crescendo!

You can see Ben in action here or here.

Also posted in Saxophone | Comments closed

Lillian Slack

  • Bachelor of Arts, Psychology/Family Life Education, Western Michigan University

Lillian Slack is a Western Michigan University magna cum laude graduate with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology and a minor in Family Life Education. She is currently enrolled in a masters program at WMU in marriage, couple and family therapy. Lillian worked for two years at The Discovery Center, a preschool in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A former Crescendo student, Lillian studied piano with Luke Cook and Derek Herzer, and voice with Shannon Scoles.

She loves working with children and being her energetic, silly self. In addition to Music Together, Lillian works at a local non-profit organization called Prevention Works, which provides preventative health and psychosocial education to Kalamazoo area youths and families. Lillian is excited to join the Music Together team and make music together with you.

Also posted in Music Together | Comments closed

Ann Cirvencic

  • Bachelor of Music, Violin Performance, Western Michigan University
  • Master of Music, Viola Performance, Cleveland Institute of Music

Ann returns to Kalamazoo after time spent performing and teaching in the Cleveland area. Her undergraduate studies were completed under Gerald Fischbach and David  Updegraff at WMU. After a semester of graduate pedagogy studies and assistant teaching with Mimi Zweig at Indiana University, Ann moved to the Cleveland area to study viola with Lucien Joel at CIM. Other teachers that have greatly influenced her playing include Bob Vernon, Lynne Ramsey, Tadeusz Wronski, Heidi Castleman, Alan Bodman, Laurence Shapiro, Linda Cerone and Cory Smith.

Ann has performed with and been a contract member of many orchestras and chamber ensembles in the Cleveland area, including Akron Symphony, Canton Symphony, Ashland Symphony, Blossom Festival Orchestra, Cleveland Pops Orchestra, and Akron Baroque.

Ann is a Suzuki-trained teacher, certified in Violin Book One. She enjoys teaching viola and violin students of all ages. She considers herself to be a “wholistic” teacher, one who cares about the personal development and creative progress of each student.

Also posted in Viola, Violin | Comments closed

Henry Rensch

  • Bachelor of Arts, Bass Performance/Jazz Studies, University of Michigan
  • Master of Music, Bass Performance, Western Michigan University
Henry Rensch is a multi-instrumental performer, educator, composer, and engineer from Kalamazoo, MI, and has been working in the west Michigan area for over 10 years. Rensch received his Masters degree from Western Michigan University in 2017, and holds undergraduate degrees in both jazz studies and electrical engineering from the University of Michigan.While at UofM, Rensch studied with world renown jazz bassist Robert Hurst. He also received instruction from eminent jazz veterans John Clayton, Christian McBride, and many more. At WMU, he served as graduate assistant, providing dedicated bass lessons to students ranging from undergraduate seniors to non-majors at the request of professor of both jazz and classical bass, Tom Knific. He also performed onstage with an incredible array of jazz legends including Rufus Reid, George Garzone, Terrell Stafford, Billy Hart, Jimmy Cobb, Peter Erskine, Chico Pinheiro, and Ed Simon.

An accomplished doubler on electric and double basses, Rensch is in demand in the Kalamazoo area, and has enjoyed being part of a wide variety of performances and recordings in jazz, folk, prog-rock, hip hop, avant-garde, funk, country, and numerous other genres. He has performed numerous times with American Idol finalist Matt Giraud, and has been the sole bassist for the local Dan Willenberg Trio, which performed weekly at Kalamzoo’s The Union Cabaret and Grille for over 3 years. He is an alum of the award winning WMU-based Latin jazz ensemble, Mas Que Nada, and the Nashville-based piano rock trio We Know Jackson. Rensch co-founded the commercial music practicum ensemble Groove Lab, and is the host and bandleader for a new performance series at Rupert’s Brewhouse. In addition to musical performance and education, Rensch is also a skilled audio engineer who has worked on numerous performances and productions, provided instruction in audio engineering, served as graduate assistant to the WMU Multimedia Arts Department, and enjoys building and repairing audio equipment in his spare time.

Also posted in Electric Guitar, String Bass | Comments closed

Rose Gifford

  • Master of Music, Piano Performance and Pedagogy; University of Oklahoma
  • Bachelor of Music, Keyboard Performance; Western Michigan University

From Portage, Michigan, Rose Gifford graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Keyboard Performance from Western Michigan University in 2015.  While at WMU, she held the Gilmore Piano Scholarship for four years. She studied applied piano under Dr. Silvia Roederer and collaborative piano with Lori Sims, and also served on the board for the WMU MTNA Collegiate Chapter under the direction of Jeremy Siskind.

Rose graduated from the University of Oklahoma in May 2017, with her Master of Music degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy.  While at OU, she worked as a graduate assistant serving as instructor of record for various group piano classes and secondary applied piano lessons.  In addition to her teaching duties, she also was assistant to Dr. Jane Magrath.  At OU, Rose studied applied piano under Dr. Jeongwon Ham and Dr. Ed Gates, and piano pedagogy under Dr. Barbara Fast and Dr. Jane Magrath.  She was awarded the Martha M. Boucher Piano Scholarship in 2016, as well as the Alice and Albert Kirkpatrick Scholarship and the Genevieve Vliet Piano Scholarship in 2017.  She served on the board of the MTNA Collegiate Chapter at OU during the 2016-17 school year, during which time it won the Collegiate Chapter of the Year Award.

Rose has presented at the MTNA National Conference in 2017, and has participated in the Interharmony International Music Festival in Arcidosso, Italy, as well as the Classical Music Festival in Eisensdat, Austria. Most recently, she taught functional piano classes as Visiting Assistant Professor of Keyboard at the Crane School of Music at SUNY-Potsdam. Rose currently teaches private lessons at the Ada Conservatory of Music in Ada, MI, as well as the Crescendo Academy of Music in Kalamazoo, MI.

Also posted in Accompanist, Piano | Comments closed
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