Category Archives: Faculty

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

Rufus Ferguson

  • Master of Music, Piano Performance; Western Michigan University
  • Bachelor of Music, Jazz Studies; Western Michigan University

Rufus Ferguson is a jazz pianist based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Western Michigan University under the mentorship of Jeremy Siskind. During his tenure at WMU he has studied with artists such as Scott Cowan, Andrew Rathbun, Edward Simon, Frank Carlberg and participated in exclusive masterclasses with artists such as Fred Hersch, Kenny Barron, Barry Harris and more. He is an experienced performer, arranger, composer and teacher, specifically in the jazz genre.

Rufus got his start studying classical piano at the age of five. He became a gospel church organist at a young age and later began playing jazz piano at age 13. His dedication to being equally well-versed in multiple genres of music has afforded him many unique opportunities such as playing with Grammy-nominated and award-winning artists and groups of all genres.

Rufus arrangements and compositions has been played by many artist and groups such as, WMU Advanced Jazz Ensemble, the Rufus Ferguson Ensemble, the Nashon Holloway Band. These collaborative experiences led to opportunities to teach at The Keith Hall Summer Drum Intensive in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Showchoir Camps of America at Heidelburg University in Tiffin, Ohio.

He has performed at several festivals such as the Notre Dame Jazz Festival, Elmhurst Jazz Festival, Flint Jazz Festival and the Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. In May 2016, Rufus became a piano instructor at Western Michigan University where he also directs the University Jazz Lab Band.  In addition to his position at WMU, Rufus is a piano instructor for the Suzuki Academy of Kalamazoo, Crescendo Academy of Music and Gilmore Education Department. He is also the Jazz Band Director at Portage Northern High School and rhythm section coach for the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra.

To see Rufus in action, visit his website.

Also posted in Piano | Comments closed

Zoe Schlussel

  • Master of Music, Violin Performance, Western Michigan University
  • Bachelor of Music, Violin Performance, University of the Pacific

Zoe began playing violin at age 9 in Grass Valley, CA where she studied both classical violin and Scottish Fiddle. In 2015 she received her Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance from University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music where she studied under scholarship with professor Igor Veligan. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Violin Performance at Western Michigan University’s School of Music as the violin Graduate Assistant where she studies with Renata Artman Knific.

She is an Artist Scholar and substitute musician with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and held the position of concertmaster at WMU in 2017. In addition, she is a substitute musician with Southwest Michigan and Holland Symphonies and has attended the Hawaii Performing Arts and Opera Maya summer festivals.

Zoe has been teaching privately since 2008 with a Suzuki-based curriculum supplemented by folk and Scottish fiddle music to provide a diversified musical education. She has taught at Western Michigan University as Graduate Assistant to the violin studio from 2016 to present and was a teaching assistant for Sierra Strings from 2006-2009. Zoe has also worked with violinists such as the soloist Chee-Yun Kim, Clara Takarabe, Francois Henkins, Eugene Chukhlov, and Zino Bogachek. In addition to her classical education and career, Zoe attended Alasdair Fraser’s Sierra Fiddle Camp from 2008-2010, recorded on Della Saldoli’s Album “Seasons”, and was a member of Current Personae Chamber Orchestra.

Also posted in Violin | Comments closed

Scott Robbins

  • Master of Music, Music Education, VanderCook School of Music, Chicago
  • Bachelor of Music, Music Education, Western Michigan University

Scott Robbins has nearly 30 years as a music teacher at Kalamazoo Public Schools. He has also taught at Chamber Music Workshop, Birch Creek Music Performance Camp, and KPS Summer Band and Orchestra. He has performed with the WMU Symphonic Band, Orchestra, and Jazz Orchestra; the Otsego Jazz Ensemble; the St. Joseph Community Band; West Shore Symphony; and Grand Rapid Symphony.

Also posted in Saxophone | Comments closed
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