UH Alum Helping Turn Cougar Country Into Jazz Land

New Sponsored Residency Program to Bring Top Talents to Campus

Jeff Vacek learned plenty of life lessons during his years as trombonist in the University of Houston’s Jazz Ensemble. He credits UH’s jazz program and its director Noe Marmolejo for helping him grow personally and professionally.

After earning his bachelor’s degree from UH’s Moores School of Music in 1999, Vacek put down the trombone and became an information technology entrepreneur. Although he’s not in the music industry, Vacek firmly stands behind the lessons he learned as a jazz student. Now, he wants to enhance the experiences of today’s student musicians by helping bring guest artists to campus.

UH’s Vacek Jazz Artist Residency provides students an opportunity to work and perform with seasoned music pros. The program will continue to bring top players to campus each fall and spring through the generous support of its namesake. Supporting this project, he said, is the least he can do for a program that has done so much for him.

 “The jazz program teaches students commitment, not giving up and staying focused,” he said. “These are all things that you need to succeed in any aspect of your life, and I am happy to give back to the university and the jazz program that changed mine.”

Noted pianist and educator Dan Haerle will kick off this new program.  He will teach on campus Nov. 6 – 13. Haerle also will perform with the UH's big bands at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 13 in the Moores Opera House (Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard). Concert works will include compositions by Haerle, big band legend Sammy Nestico and Radiohead. Tickets are $12 and $7 for students and seniors. They can be purchased at the Moores Box Office or by calling 713-743-3313.

“Having a musician like Dan Haerle visit the university is a huge benefit to these students,” Vacek said. “To work and play with professional artists elevates students’ musical and academic experiences. It also will bring out their best performances and make them better musicians.”

Haerle has performed with the likes of Mel Torme, Freddie Hubbard, Pat Metheny and Woody Shaw. He is a professor emeritus at the University of North Texas, where he has taught since 1977. At UNT, Haerle taught classes focused on piano and improvisation. He also created the university’s Music Instrument Digital Interface Performance Lab and started the school’s first online course in jazz studies.

“I know that UH’s jazz program has the highest musical standards and turns out many fine musicians,” Haerle said. “It is a pleasure to visit the Moores School of Music as I know I will get to interact with excellent, motivated students.”

In April, the Vack Jazz Residency Project will bring saxophonist Bill Evans back to campus. He will perform with the Jazz Ensemble on April 13.

To learn more about UH’s jazz program and upcoming performances, visit www.music.uh.edu.