Category Archives: Piano

Daniel Willenberg

  • Artist Diploma, Jazz Studies, Western Michigan University
  • Master of Music Performance, Jazz Studies, Western Michigan University
  • Bachelor of Arts, Music Education, Albion College

Dan Willenberg is currently pursuing a Performer’s Diploma in Jazz Piano Performance from Western Michigan University and working as a freelance jazz pianist, accompanist, producer, composer, and educator. A 3-time Open Division winner of the Michigan Music Association’s statewide competition, Dan studied piano with Pattie Nelson-Raica of Marine City before attending Albion College, where he studied classical music with Dr. David Abbott and completed a K-12 Instrumental Music Education degree. During his time at Albion, Dan began teaching himself jazz and began to play several weekly gigs throughout Albion and surrounding areas. He was then accepted to the prestigious jazz program at Western Michigan University to pursue a Master’s degree in jazz piano performance under the tutelage of Grammy-nominated pianist Fred Hersch; internationally-renowned jazz educator, pianist, and composer Steve Zegree; 2010 Guggenheim Fellow and Grammy-nominated pianist Edward Simon; and young powerhouse Jeremy Siskind, winner of the 2013 Nottingham Jazz Piano Competition.

Dan finished his master’s degree in Spring of 2014 and became the host of the weekly jazz jam session at The Union Cabaret & Grille in downtown Kalamazoo. He has performed with/for some of the leading names in jazz music including Joe Lovano, Billy Hart, Randy Brecker, Robert Glasper, Miguel Zenon, Steve Wilson, Victor Goines, Xavier Davis, John Clayton, Bill Stewart, Andrew Rathbun, Sara Gazarek, and Billy Drewes, As an accompanist, Dan is known for being an extremely versatile sideman; working with vocalists and instrumentalists alike in classical, jazz, musical theater, funk, and pop realms.

As a pedagogue, Dan is currently an adjunct jazz piano instructor at Albion College; was the Jazz Piano Faculty instructor at the 2015 Gilmore Piano Camp; taught class piano for both music and non-music majors at WMU as a graduate assistant; was the resident jazz pianist of the Keith Hall Summer Drum Intensive in 2013-14; and maintains a private studio with classical and jazz piano students.
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Nicholas Mueller

  • Bachelor of Music, Jazz Studies, Western Michigan University
Since pursuing a professional career in the performing arts, Nich has received acclaim for composing, arranging, producing, conducting, educating, acting, graphic-design, and photography. He received a Bachelors of Music in Jazz Studies from Western Michigan University; during his formal education he studied under or interacted with great jazz musician and esteemed educators including Billy Hart, David Baker, Fred Hersch, Ed Simon, Darmon Meader, and Peter Eldridge, as well as the highly esteemed faculty at WMU. Throughout his career, he has been privileged enough to have performed alongside greats such as Donny McCaslin, Bob Mintzer, Kurt Elling, Roger Treece, Matt Hughes, and Phil Palombi; as well to have performed in venues and festivals such as Carnegie Hall, the Allen Room in Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, and Jazz Educators Network. In April 2011, Nich released his Downbeat Award winning debut album All in a Day, which features Nich as a singer-songwriter, pianist and vocalist. Nich has also been featured as a lead actor in productions at the highly acclaimed Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI, Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, and now Farmers Alley Theatre. Currently, Nich is the director of GCII at WMU, the partnering ensemble to the internationally acclaimed collegiate vocal jazz group, Gold Company.
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Susan Lawrence

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in music performance/education from Albion College
  • Master of Music in piano performance from Western Michigan University

Susan currently teaches piano and performs as a staff accompanist for Kalamazoo College. In addition, she is the Music Coordinator for the Music Department at Kalamazoo College. Susan brings 30 years of piano performance and teaching experience, along with 17 years of arts administration experience to this position. Her recent positions included: staff accompanist – coach for Albion College which included all instruments, solo voice and choral groups; ensemble groups; adjunct college piano instruction at Albion and local community colleges; and a nine-year career as Director of Education for The Gilmore Keyboard Festival, with major accomplishments being The Gilmore piano lab program, summer Gilmore Piano Camp and the Festival, Gilmore Elderhostel program. Within the past few years, Lawrence has been a piano accompanist for Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra members, The Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra (principal pianist – 1997-2001), students and professors at Western Michigan University and local Community Music Schools, including The Music Center of South Central Michigan, Battle Creek, Crescendo Academy and Suzuki Strings in Kalamazoo. In addition, she has played for many theater productions in the Kalamazoo area.

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Melissa Holso

  • Bachelor of Music, Piano Performance, Central Michigan University
  • Bachelor of Music Education, Central Michigan University

Melissa has taught lessons for 8 years through the Community Music School at Central Michigan University and at Crescendo Academy of Music.  She remains active as an accompanist to multiple ensembles, instrumentalists and vocalists. Melissa currently is the Assistant Band Director for the Portage Northern High School Band program and the Director of Bands for Portage North Middle School.

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Brent Decker

  • Bachelor of Arts, Woodwind Performance, Western Michigan University

Brent teaches saxophone and piano for Crescendo, as well as accompanying students at recitals. Brent has worked as a freelance accompanist and pit orchestra musician throughout the Kalamazoo area. He also has experience as a Stage and Musical Director for Community Theater productions.

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