JAZZMN ORCHESTRA MUSICIANS INCLUDE MANY OF THE FINEST JAZZ SOLOISTS AND ENSEMBLE PLAYERS IN THE REGION!
The JazzMN Orchestra has been presenting an annual concert series featuring internationally known guest artists since 1999. JazzMN musicians possess strong musicianship skills and excellent jazz skills, particularly in the area of improvisation. The musicians are often featured as soloists, where they can exhibit the enormous range of their talent and technical proficiency. All JazzMN musicians are “first call” in that they are selected to perform for touring Broadway shows at the Orpheum and State Theaters, the Ordway and Guthrie Theaters and for national acts at clubs and casinos. Most have advanced degrees in music from prestigious music schools and some have even toured with the likes of Doc Severisen, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, and Prince! Check out the musicians’ photos and bios here.
The JazzMN Orchestra Musicians
Brian Grivna, alto
Dave Milne, alto
Pete Whitman, tenor
Stephanie Wieseler, tenor
Brian Handeland, baritone
Michael B. Nelson
Dr. Joshua Becker, bass trombone
Mary Louise Knutson, piano
Chris Olson, guitar
Graydon Peterson, bass
Jeff Bailey, bass
Joe Pulice, drums
JazzMN Orchestra Bios
Trombonist/composer/conductor JC Sanford is deeply rooted in the traditions of jazz and classical music, yet constantly pushing at their boundaries. A long-time student of the legendary Bob Brookmeyer, Sanford has performed as a trombonist alongside the likes of Danilo Pérez, Matt Wilson, Anthony Cox, and Donny McCaslin. A sought-after conductor of new large ensemble music in NYC, he conducts the thrice-Grammy-nominated John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, the Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble, the Alan Ferber Nonet +Strings, John Ellis’ jazz opera Ice Siren, and the Alice Coltrane Orchestra featuring Ravi Coltrane and Jack DeJohnette. His compositions and arrangements have been performed by jazz artists such as Dave Liebman, John Abercrombie, Lew Soloff, and Ingrid Jensen, plus non-jazz artists like Japanese koto player Yumi Kurosawa, British singer-songwriter Joy Askew, and Grammy-nominated classical pianist Andrew Russo. His own 2014 JC Sanford Orchestra album Views from the Inside won international acclaim and was awarded the prestigious Aaron Copland Fund for Recording grant. Sanford was recognized as a “Rising Star” trombonist and arranger in DownBeat Magazine’s 2018 Critic’s Poll, is a 2018 McKnight Composer Fellow, and received a 2019 MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant to record his quartet. In May, 2019, Sanford became Artistic Director of the JazzMN Orchestra.
Dr. Joshua Becker
Josh Becker joined JazzMN in the Spring of 2020. He is a Twin Cities-based trombonist and music educator. As a jazz performer, he has played with Benny Golson, Wycliffe Gordon, Bill Reichenbach, Maria Schneider and Dave Weckl. Josh toured with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and the 5 by Design Big Band. In the Twin Cities, he has been a member of the Bill Simenson Orchestra and Inatnas Jazz Orchestra.
He is a former member of UW-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble I and the Eastman Jazz Ensemble. Josh was a finalist and semi-finalist with the US Army Field Band “Jazz Ambassadors” and the US Air Force “Airmen of Note,” respectively. He has also performed with the Houston Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, Houston Ballet, Symphoria Orchestra of Syracuse, Aspen Festival Orchestra and the Chautauqua Festival Orchestra.
Josh holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Eastman School of Music, where he was a teaching assistant in the trombone, music education and jazz areas and also earned the Performer’s Certificate. Josh’s research on the repertoire and history of the Kai Winding Septet was nominated for the Eastman Lecture Recital Prize. He received a Master’s from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and a Bachelor of Music Education from UW-Eau Claire.
Currently, Josh teaches 5thGrade Instrumental Music in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district, directs the Prince Peace Brass Choir in Burnsville and has a large low brass studio made up of students from the south metro.
Stephanie Wieseler has performed as a saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist in a variety of musical styles and settings. She toured nationally and internationally as an ensemble member with Bon Iver for their third album, 22, A Million. Stephanie is an alumna of the Disneyland All-American College Band, where she performed with Arturo Sandoval and John Clayton, among other notable artists. She holds a Bachelor of Music from New England Conservatory, where she studied with Jerry Bergonzi and Hankus Netsky. Recent projects have included the Inatnas Orchestra and the Twin Cities Jazz Composers’ Workshop, as well as Collide Theatrical’s production of The Picture of Dorian Gray. She has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Jazz à Vienne, and the Montreux Jazz Festival, among other notable venues and festivals.
Ethan Freier graduated in 1988 from Indiana University with a Master‘s Degree in Jazz Studies and a Performance Certificate in Trombone. He then came to the Twin Cities and has enjoyed much success as a freelance trombonist performing Latin, jazz, classical, Broadway, rock and pop music in a variety of settings including pit orchestras, recording sessions, nightclubs, corporate events, weddings and shows that feature touring artists. Many of Freier’s arrangements can be heard performed by the groups Synergy and Latin Sounds Orchestra. He is also a teacher at Northfield Middle School and Hamline University.
One of the most versatile trombonists in the Twin Cities, Dave has worked in a wide range of musical settings: Dixieland, straight-ahead jazz, salsa and Brazilian music, big bands, pit orchestras and recordings. He has backed entertainment legends such as Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Harry Connick Jr., Julie Andrews and Rosemary Clooney. Dave is proud of his eleven-year association with the late trumpeter Red Wolfe (Port of Dixie Jazz Band and Ellington Echoes) and continues to perform with the latter ensemble, now led by saxophonist Percy Hughes.
Brian, a freelance musician in the Twin Cities, has spent 12 years as a staff woodwind player at the Guthrie Theater and has toured with the Buddy Rich Band. He has performed and recorded with the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He has been a regular on “A Prairie Home Companion” and played in a number of Broadway pit bands. He teaches saxophone and jazz improvisation at Macalester College and the University of Minnesota.
Bob Hallgrimson has been a member of the JazzMn Orchestra since the bands inception. He enjoys the challenges the band offers musically, and the camaraderie with the musicians. He also works at the Channhassen Dinner Theatres as a member of the orchestra, where he has been since 2005.
Over the years Bob has played with many different groups, has backed up numerous artists, along with playing countless Broadway shows. Bob’s education includes time at North Dakota State University, University of Denver, New England Conservatory and the Army School of Music. When Bob is away from his horn, he enjoys cooking, going on walks with his wife Debbie and his dog Otis, and watching sports!
Mary Louise Knutson
Jazz pianist-composer Mary Louise Knutson has been called "one of the most exciting artists to happen to jazz piano in quite some time." Her warm, inviting tone, broad range of emotional expression, and distinctive compositions have brought her much recognition on the national music scene. She can be heard regularly in the Twin Cities with her group, the Mary Louise Knutson Trio, whose latest CD, In the Bubble, made JazzWeek’s Top 10 and stayed in the Top 50 for 19 consecutive weeks. Her debut jazz trio CD, Call Me When You Get There, charted in Jazz Week’s Top 50 and earned Knutson the award for Top New Jazz Instrumentalist in 2001. In 2005, she was a Finalist in the Kennedy Center’s Women in Jazz Pianist Competition, and in 2006, Knutson was a Minnesota Music Awards nominee for both Jazz Artist of the Year and Pianist of the Year.
From 2012-2018, Knutson toured with trumpeter Doc Severinsen, former bandleader for the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, and has performed with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, Kevin Mahogany, Ernie Watts, Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, Nicholas Payton, Slide Hampton, and many more. She also performs with vocalists Connie Evingson, Debbie Duncan, and Patty Peterson, and a variety of instrumental groups including the JazzMN Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra. www.marylouiseknutson.com
Michael B. Nelson
Michael B. Nelson has distinguished himself as the leader, composer, arranger, and trombonist for the internationally acclaimed, 5-piece "a cappella" jazz horn group, the HORNHEADS. From 1991-2001, Nelson and the Hornheads recorded and toured worldwide with Prince, performing for over 2 million concert goers. Nelson recorded and arranged horns for 20 CDs with Prince and associated Paisley Park artists and co-wrote a song with Prince on his Grammy-nominated Gold Experience CD. Nelson continued arranging horns and producing horn and orchestral sessions for Prince from 2011-2016. In 1996 Nelson received a McKnight Composers Fellowship through the American Composers Forum.
From 2012-2017, Nelson joined Doc Severinsen as his lead trombonist, touring with his big band and performing with the Minnesota Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, Utah Symphony, Detroit Symphony, and the Cincinnati Pops on his symphony shows.
As a top call studio musician, he has appeared on over 200 CDs, with producer, composer, arranger, and performer credits on 4 Hornheads solo releases (EveryTHING bLOWs!, Fat Lip, 5 Heads Are Better Than 1, and Hornheads) and 10 Compass Records CDs for the Target retail chain. Nelson has performed and/or recorded with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Doc Severinsen, Lenny Kravitz, The Jonas Brothers, Sammy Davis Jr., Mandy Moore, Jimmy Jam, Johnny Mathis, Larry Graham, Ben Sidran, Maceo Parker, and many others. He has also worked on many commercial projects for companies such as Target, BMW, Holiday Inn, Macys, ABC, Minnesota Twins, Best Buy, General Mills, Hormel, and Long John Silver’s.
Joe Pulice holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and a Master of Music degree in Percussion from the University of Minnesota. Joe has been an active drummer and percussionist in the Twin Cities since 1980. In 1979 Joe won The Northern Midwest Regional Louie Bellson/Slingerland Drum Contest. In 1986 Joe toured with Woody Herman and his Thundering Herd during Woody’s 50th Anniversary Tour. Joe has won two Minnesota Jazz Music Awards: one for Best Jazz Vibist and one as a member of world-renowned drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt’s group “Kamanari”. During the 1990’s, Joe was a member of Jack McDuff’s New York based band “The Heatin’ System.” Joe toured nationally with Bernadette Peters during 1996-1997. As a show player, Joe has performed with many artists including Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. Joe has played over 50 Broadway productions as a first-call drummer in the Twin Cities. In 2011, Joe recorded two CDs and two DVDs of a three-night performance with tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi that was released by Big Note Productions.
Dr. Adam Rossmiller is a trumpet performer and music educator in the Twin Cities. Performance credits include: Doc Severinsen Big Band, Glen Miller Big Band, JazzMN Orchestra, Bach Society of MN, Pete Whitman’s X-tet, Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church Brass, Dr. Mambo’s Combo, Jack Brass Band, and Ronn Easton’s All Star Soul Revue. He has also had the pleasure of performing professionally with: Jason Marsalis, Natalie Cole, Eric Alexander, Mike Stern, Nicholas Payton, Fred Wesley, Diane Schuur, Ernie Watts, Wayne Bergeron, the Hornheads, the Four Tops, Martha & the Vandellas, and Wayne Newton. Adam is also a regular performer in the Twin Cities vibrant musical theatre scene and has been hired for numerous engagements at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, Children’s Theatre, and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. He currently directs the Jazz Ensemble at Concordia University St. Paul where he also teaches Brass Pedagogy and Jazz Improvisation. He has served on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Morris, Gustavus Adolphus College, and St. Cloud State University. He directs a beginning band and maintains a private studio at the Mt. Olivet School of Music. His edition of Frank Bencriscutto’s Concerto for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble is published through Ars Nova Press.
Christopher Olson has been playing with JazzMN since 2013. He has performed alone and with groups of all sizes, and as a guest artist or clinician, at events and venues throughout the world. Chris’s guitar playing is featured on many recordings, some of which include his original compositions, and he is currently part of a several active ensembles. A long-time educator, Chris teaches guitar and Jazz at the University of St. Thomas, Luther College, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, the MacPhail Center for Music, and the Shell Lake Arts Center. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and the University of North Texas, more information about Chris can be found at: www.chrisolsonmusic.com.
Pete Whitman is a saxophonist, flutist, clarinetist, composer, arranger and educator based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. As a freelance musician, Whitman performs in a wide range of musical styles and contexts that include Jazz, Classical, Pop, dance bands, etc. He has performed with such distinguished groups as the Minnesota Orchestra, Jack McDuff, Curtis Fuller, the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Jazz MN Big Band, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Andres Prado, Dave Stryker, The Temptations and The Midtown Men. Whitman frequently performs in Broadway shows in the Twin Cities area. He has performed in the pit orchestra with such shows as Legally Blonde, The Pirates of Penzance, Christmas Story, The Wizard of Oz, White Christmas, Chorus Line, Singing in the Rain, West Side Story and Chicago.
Whitman has recorded extensively as a sideman and has three CD’s under his name: Departure Point (Igmod Records), The Sound of Water (Artegra), and Where’s When (Artegra). Where’s When features the Pete Whitman X-tet, a ten-piece ensemble, which received a four-star rating by DownBeat Magazine. Two of his most recent recording projects include Mississippi (Shifting Paradigm Records) and Changes We Can Believe In by the Pete Whitman/Chris Olson Quintet (Bandcamp).
Pete Whitman’s experience as an educator includes eighteen years at McNally Smith College of Music teaching saxophone, improvisation, arranging and directing the McNally Smith Jazz Orchestra. He frequently serves as a clinician for high school and college jazz festivals all over the US. In 2016, Whitman was a featured clinician/artist at the Jinbao International Saxophone Festival in Tianjin, China. He received his B.M and M.M. in Jazz Studies from the University of North Texas.
Brian Handeland is a freelance woodwind doubler and educator based in the Twin Cities. He can be found performing regularly with a wide variety of jazz/pop/folk bands all around the metro area, including the JazzMN Orchestra, Shirts & Skins, The Soul Shack, Fuzzy Math, Inatnas Orchestra, the Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra, and The Brass Barn Polka Band. Brian also works as a music educator, teaching saxophone/clarinet/flute and jazz lessons at North St Paul High School, saxophone lessons at K&S Conservatory in Woodbury, and in-home woodwind lessons all around the Twin Cities metro.
A native of Minneapolis, MN, Brian studied jazz and classical music at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the University of North Texas, where he played and recorded with a number of ensembles including the UW-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble I, the UW-Eau Claire Symphony Orchestra, the UNT Latin Jazz Ensemble, and the prestigious UNT 1:00 Lab Band. After college, Brian worked for 2 years as a touring pit orchestra musician with NETworks Presentations, where he played woodwinds on the 2016 International tour of Shrek the Musical, as well as on North American tours of the musicals Elf and Flashdance. He also played with pianist Lorie Line and her Pop Chamber Orchestra on her 2016 Holiday Tour.
Elaine Burt is a recent arrival to the Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota music community after 23 years in New York City. Elaine’s career has taken her all over the world performing with various bands and artists. In New York City, Elaine shared the stage with such greats as Bernadette Peters, Reba McEntire, and Idina Menzel. She also performed on Broadway hits, national television programs, studio recording sessions, and with premier jazz orchestras. Elaine frequently tours with Paul Anka and is a member of the band for the Tony Award winning revival of HAIR.
Born in Tyler, Texas, Elaine grew up in both Texas and Minnesota. She began piano lessons at the age of five and picked up the trumpet at age ten. Her passion for music led her to the world-renowned school of music at the University of North Texas where she studied with Professor John Haynie, Dr. Leonard Candelaria, and Don “Jake” Jacoby, and earned both a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Jazz Studies. As a graduate student, Elaine received a teaching fellowship giving her the opportunity to lead two of the performing jazz lab bands. Most recently, Elaine was honored to teach students of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz Academy in New York City. Elaine enjoys bringing her joy of music to students of all ages while guiding them on their journey of musical exploration.
David Milne has performed throughout the USA, and on tours to Europe and Asia, as a featured soloist, artist-clinician and guest artist faculty. As a saxophonist, David has performed with the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, Rochester (NY) Philharmonic Orchestra, JazzMN Big Band, Phil Woods, Doc Severinsen, Gordon Goodwin, Bob Florence, Rob McConnell, Bob Mintzer, Bobby McFerrin, Ray Charles, Jack McDuff, Lou Rawls, Ernestine Anderson, Terry Gibbs, Smokey Robinson, and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, among others. David has received awards, grants and commissions for performances of new works from the American Composers Forum, Jerome Foundation, THE Commission Project, Twin Cities Jazz Society and Downbeat jazz journal. He serves as Professor of Music-Saxophone and Jazz Studies at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Jake Baldwin attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where he met many teachers and peers that continue to serve as major inspirations today. He placed third in the International Trumpet Guild’s jazz division in 2010 and second in the National Trumpet Competition’s jazz division in 2013. A Minneapolis native since 2013, Baldwin keeps a busy schedule as a freelance trumpeter with groups like Har Mar Superstar, McNasty Brass Band, Davu Seru’s No Territory Band, Chris Bates’ Red 5, and Inatnas Orchestra, as well as leading his own groups, recording, and teaching.
Jeff Bailey has performed in a wide variety of musical settings as a musician, composer, producer, and educator. He has performed with world renowned Jazz artists: Craig Taborn, James Carter, Eric Gravatt, Rodney Jones,Wessel Anderson, Geoff Keezer, Andres Prado, Tim Reis, Mike Stern, Justin Robinson, and James Moody. Never one to be pigeonholed Jeff has also toured or performed with: Joey McIntyre (NKOTB), Minnesota Orchestra, Charles Lazarus, Doc Severinsen, Jonatha Brooke, Heather Headley, Doc Martin, Chastity Brown, Keith Antar Mason & The Hittite Empire, and Charley Drayton. Mr. Bailey continues to tour, compose, and perform throughout the US and internationally, certain each day is another opportunity for gratitude and joy.
Bassist Graydon Peterson completed his Bachelor’s degree in music composition at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire where he studied classical bass with James Clute, a former bassist with the Minnesota Orchestra. While Graydon was a member of the DownBeat award-winning UWEC Jazz Ensemble I, he performed with such guest jazz artists as Lewis Nash, Ingrid Jensen, Jason Marsalis, and Chris Botti.
Now a resident of Minneapolis, Graydon is one of the area’s top-call bassists, performing nightly with a variety of vocalists and small ensembles including Debbie Duncan, Arne Fogel, Firebell, Snowblind, Adam Meckler Quintet, Charanga Tropical, Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra, Tropical Zone Orchestra, Adam Meckler Orchestra, and his own Graydon Peterson Quartet. Graydon has accompanied world-renowned jazz drummer Francisco Mela for a series of concerts in Havana Cuba, some of which were held at the International jazz festival there. Other widely know artists Graydon has performed with include Delfeayo Marsalis, Gary Bartz, Randy Brecker, Ben Wendel, Jorge Pacheco and Mayito Rivera. A consummate accompanist, writer and arranger, he has become one of the backbones of the jazz scene in the Twin Cities.