Guest Artists

Ben Wendel

Ben Wendel.jpg

Grammy nomiated saxophonist Ben Wendel was born in Vancouver, Canada and raised in Los Angeles. Currently living in Brooklyn, NY, he has enjoyed a varied career as a performer, composer, and producer. Highlights include tours, performances, and/or recordings with artists such as Tigran Hamasyan, Antonio Sanchez, Gerald Clayton, Eric Harland, Taylor Eigsti, Linda May Han Oh, Moonchild, Louis Cole, Daedelus, Snoop Dogg and the artist formerly known as Prince. Ben is a founding member of the Grammy nomiated group Kneebody.

As a composer, he has received an ASCAP Jazz Composer Award, the 2008, 2011, and 2017 Chamber Music America "New Works Grant," and was awarded the Victor Lynch-Staunton award by the Canada Council For The Arts. He also co-wrote the score for John Krasinski's adaptation of David Foster Wallace's "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men."

Ben was honored to work with conductor Kent Nagano in producing in a series of concerts for the Festspiel Plus in Munich, Germany. From 2008 to 2015, he produced a multi-genre performance series at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California. During that time he was appointed the head of their Jazz and Blues initiative, which included producing and expanding performance opportunities for these genres in Los Angeles. As part of this appointment, Ben helped to create an artistic council which included such luminaries as Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert and Luciana Souza. Ben's producer work includes the Grammy nominated album "Life Forum" for pianist Gerald Clayton on Concord Records.

Ben has recorded for Sunnyside Records, Motema Music, Concord Records and Brainfeeder with four solo albums under his belt: Simple Song (2009), Frame (2012), What We Bring (2016), and The Seasons (2018), a duo project with French-American pianist Dan Tepfer entitled Small Constructions (2013) and multiple Kneebody albums. His critically acclaimed music video project, The Seasons, inspired by Tchaikovsky's works of the same name, was released throughout 2015 and included guests such as Joshua Redman, Jeff Ballard, Mark Turner, Julian Lage, Ambrose Akinmusire and more. It was listed as one of the best releases of 2015 by the NY Times.

Ben is a former Adjunct Professor of Jazz Studies at USC and a current Adjunct at the New School in NYC. Educational outreach has been a constant in his career with over 250 master classes at various colleges, universities, high schools, and also previous work wit the LA Philharmonic Artistic Program.

Dayna Stephens


Recent recipient of the number-two spot for the 2017 DownBeat Critics Poll in the category “Rising Star—Tenor Saxophone, Dayna Stephens has garnered critical acclaim over the years for his playing, compositions and arrangements. DownBeat’s James Hale describes Gratitude, the saxophonist/composer’s eighth release as a leader, as a “highly cinematic listening experience, full of roiling seas and shifting skies.” Brad Faberman sites Dayna as the June 2017 JazzTimes Editor’s Pick, writing, “His big, warm lines are full of notes and intent but also gusts of wind, bodies of water.” A review from JazzScene Magazine’s Alex W. Rodriguez praises the record’s distinctive personnel: “This album showcases some of today’s finest musicians at the height of their craft, anchored by Stephens’ humble magnetism. The musicians exude a patient, persistent quality in their collective exploration, with the melodies unfolding into searching improvisations throughout.”

Playing with pureness of intention, Dayna admits he’s always searching to find what’s “singable.” That search often results in live improvisations and written compositions that challenge traditional concepts of harmony, pushing phrasing and sending beautiful and unintentional melodies in unlikely directions. Dayna’s soulful lines have resonated through the halls of such internationally renowned venues as the Village Vanguard, Blue Note Jazz Club, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Birdland, Yoshi’s, The Blue Whale, Marians Jazzroom in Switzerland, Blue Note Milano, Philharmonie de Paris, Le Duc des Lombards, Red Rocks and San Francisco Jazz Center.

Rhythmic dialogue excites the Brooklyn-born Bay Area-raised artist, as both an improviser and a written composer. His creative expression leads him to uncover different rhythmic interpretations of harmonic ideas as part of a spontaneous interchange with other players. These evolving interpretations help serve Dayna’s commitment to authenticity of the moment, whether he’s playing live or in the studio. And his rhythmic inquiry has earned him the attention and admiration of some of the music’s most beloved drummers—many of whom have collaborated with him on recordings, on the bandstand and on the road, including Brian Blade, Al Foster, Idris Muhammad, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Billy Hart, Marcus Gilmore, Bill Stewart, Marvin “Boogaloo” Smith, Eric Harland, Matt Slocum, Johnathan Blake, Jaimeo Brown, Victor Lewis, Lewis Nash, Jorge Rossy, Jeff Ballard and Justin Brown.

Dayna has traveled and recorded with a cross section of such distinctive voices, including pianists Brad Mehldau, Fred Hersch, Billy Childs, Geoffrey Keezer, Taylor Eigsti, Muhal Richard Abrams, Kenny Barron, Theo Hill, Gerald Clayton and Aaron Parks; trumpet players Roy Hargrove, Tom Harrell, Sean Jones, Terell Stafford, Brian Lynch, Ambrose Akinmusire and Michael Rodriguez; saxophone players Wayne Shorter, Jaleel Shaw, Ben Wendel, Chris Potter, John Ellis and Walter Smith III; bass players Ben Street, Rufus Reid, Kiyoshi Kitagawa, Joe Sanders, Linda Oh, Doug Weiss, Larry Grenadier and Harish Raghavan; vocalists Gretchen Parlato, Becca Stevens and Sachal Vasandani; and guitar players John Scofield, Julian Lage, Charles Altura, Mike Moreno, Lage Lund, Pete Bernstein and Carlos Santana. 

To hear his music is to fall in love with whatever instrument Dayna uses to channel his ideas. Through a tendency toward experimenting with both tone and texture in a harmonic context, he embraces a range of instruments—and their varying degrees of warmth—including double bass. A master of tenor, soprano and baritone saxophones and, more recently, Nyle Steiner’s EWI (electric wind instrument), Dayna’s openness and sensitivity as an artist have allowed him to stretch as a composer and arranger. Through the years, he has earned opportunities to create and interpret pieces for, among other aggregations, San Francisco’s Peninsula Symphony Orchestra, Berklee College of Music and the Oakland East Bay Symphony—for the latter of which he wrote a wide-screen arrangement of Dave Brubeck’s “The Duke” that premiered at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre for its 2013 Celebration of the Music of Dave Brubeck Concert. 

A graduate of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, where he studied under artistic icons Terence Blanchard, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, Dayna began his formal studies with a full scholarship at Berklee College of Music in Boston. As an undergraduate, he was diagnosed with the rare kidney disease focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). In June 2009, Dayna began a course of dialysis that lasted for six years, grounding him in the New York area and preventing him from touring internationally until his aunt stepped in to donate her kidney for a transplant in October 2015.

And with the release from physical suffering, arrives the jubilation and humble awareness of an interconnected self that helped shape Gratitude, Dayna’s first selfproduced recording on his brand new label Contagious Music. Featuring compositions that share soulful and sophisticated melodies, including music from Aaron Parks, Pat Metheny and Dayna himself, Gratitude serves as a gentle and powerful awakening of a universal spirit in an era of division. Personnel includes Brad Mehldau, Julian Lage, Larry Grenadier and Eric Harland. Dayna’s label Contagious Music will be releasing pianist/composer Eden Ladin’s debut recording in October.  For more information, visit:

Matt Wilson


Renowned jazz drummer Matt Wilson’s energy is hard to miss in a performance. Filled with a vibrancy that often results in a child-like smile across his face and a bob that runs through his whole body, his enthusiasm for contributing to a collective sound – whether he’s leading an ensemble or supporting someone else’s musical vision – is striking.

   It’s not just the excitement that is evident in his performances, it’s also his approach. His original drumming style can be feather soft or cacophonous, but it always purposeful as he often makes use of a variety of existing or spur-of-the-moment discovered percussion instruments; nothing is off-limits; and everything seems to be in sync with and successful in complimenting a classic drums sound and technique. Whether front and center as a soloist or creating the backbone for the music he’s playing, Wilson’s improvisations always enough room for bandmates’ respective jazz imaginations to run as freely as his does.

      Born September 27, 1964, in Knoxville, Ill., Wilson discovered his passion for drumming at an early age. It was in the third grade that he first saw Buddy Rich appear and play on the then-popular TV show “I Love Lucy Show.” Soon thereafter, with encouragement from his parents, he bought his first pair of Ludwig 9a drumsticks and began trying his hand at a range of kitchen items and five-gallon buckets. It was not long before his parents invested in a used drum, snare and cymbal. His brother played the saxophone and together they joined the local music scene as youths.

   Growing up, Wilson played in all of the school music groups, and in the eighth grade, his high school band director began hiring Wilson to play gigs with his weekend dance band. This led Wilson to playing in local music groups ranging in genres from Dixieland to rock and country.

   Later on, while studying at Wichita State University, Wilson met Dr. J.C. Combs, a professor who would become a most influential mentor. Combs helped instill in Wilson both a deeper creative allure as well as the spirit to market himself as a performing musician. With Combs’ guidance, Wilson learned to incorporate items from cloggers and bowlers to pinball machines and professional wrestlers as percussion instruments.

   After graduating WSU, the drummer moved to Boston. Wilson continued to grow as a performer in Boston’s vibrant music culture. During this time, he played, toured and recorded with many musicians and bands, including the 10-piece, forward-thinking Either/Orchestra, Charlie Kohlhase Quintet, Bevan Manson, John Medeski and vocalist Dominique Eade. Though musically engaged, Wilson’s stay in Boston would only be temporary. In 1992, he moved permanently to New York where, over time, he has evolved into and become one of jazz’s most in-demand percussionists. Wilson’s talents for composition, musical versatility and teaching have given him recognition on a multitude of platforms.

   During the course of what has now become a fulfilling career, Wilson has performed alongside a veritable who’s who in the music industry. There’s his work with icons and elder statesmen such as Herbie Hancock, Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Denny Zeitlin, Charlie Haden, Marshall Allen, Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, John Scofield and Hank Jones. Then there is his work with now-veteran peers, a partial list that includes Joe Lovano, Bruce Barth, Steve Wilson, Anat Cohen. Bob Stewart, Ron Miles, Marty Ehrlich, Ted Nash, Jane Ira Bloom, Frank Kimbrough and Dena DeRose among many others. Along the way, his musical journey has seen him cross paths with everyone from Elvis Costello, to the adventuresome John Zorn to jazz’s most well-known player, Wynton Marsalis. The breadth and scope of Wilson’s musical inclusion allows him to continue to cross paths with an endless stream of contemporary and varied musicians. He can play in most any style.

    In November 2011, Wilson was nominated for the GRAMMY® Award’s “Best Classical Crossover Recording” for his work, along with other contributing artists on the album, Meeting of the Spirits. In January 2011, he performed with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and alongside Dee Dee Bridgewater, Hancock, Lang Lang and Dianne Reeves at the White House in “An Evening of Jazz,” for a State Dinner hosted by President Obama.

     He’s become a trusted and now veteran bandleader as well.  Not surprisingly, he oversees a multitude of projects. His small-group ensembles include Arts & Crafts, a quartet that has featured trumpeter Terell Stafford, alternating keyboardists Larry Goldings and Gary Versace; and initially the late bassist Dennis Irwin who’s spot now features Martin Wind. There’s the well-established two-horn-and-bass pianoless Matt Wilson Quartet not to mention his fun-filled horn-and-bass Christmas Tree-O.

   His most recent project, “Honey And Salt” drew heavily from his native Central Illinois; inspired by the work of poet Carl Sandburg, the release of the same name earned him a pair of coveted 2018 Jazz Journalists Awards: “Musician of the Year” and “Record of the Year.”  The more pensive/spoken word effort, once known as “The Carl Sandburg Project” has, like its creator, evolved. As bandleader, he has released a dozen albums spanning more than two decades for the Palmetto label; he’s also recorded for several others. As an in-demand sideman, Wilson appears on more than 250 recordings – with the list seemingly growing on an almost a daily basis.
   On his earliest album As Wave Follows Wave, Wilson employed legendary saxophonist Redman and the equally well-respected bassist Cecil McBee, pairing them with organist Goldings. At the time, critic Scott Yanow, writing for the All Music Guide. Called it a “gem that serves as a perfect introduction to the inventiveness of Matt Wilson.” That sense of not only inventiveness, but curiosity on so many levels, remains omni-present in the drummer’s approach to his craft.

   In addition to leading his own recordings, Wilson enjoys a number of cooperative projects such as the group Trio M, where he, pianist Myra Melford and bassist Mark Dresser share the musicianship equally. For more information, visit:



Michael Rodriguez


Grammy Nominated Trumpeter/Composer Michael Rodriguez was born on July 14,1979 in Queens, New York. At the age of 8 Michaels Family moved to Miami where he began studying classical guitar. With much encouragement from his family he then began to play the trumpet in middle school and was later accepted at the prestigious New World School of the Arts to study trumpet and Guitar. He continued his studies with a full Scholarship to the University of Miami. After completing two years at U.M he decided to transfer to the New School University in New York where he received his B.A.

Michael has performed/Traveled/recorded with pianist Eric Reed, Clark Terry, Bobby Watson, Quincy Jones, Joe Lovano Toshiko Akiyoshi Orchestra, Chico O'farill Orchestra, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Pop Icon Jessica Simpson, Aretha Franklyn, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Carla Bley band, Harry Conick Jr., Eddie Palmieri Septet, Lincoln Center Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Richard Bona, Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra, Bob Minzter, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Haden, Liberation Music Orchestra, Paquito D’Rivera, Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra.

Michael Co-leads a group with his brother, pianist Robert Rodriguez, and have 4 recordings as the Rodriguez Brothers with the most recent entitled “Impromptu” receiving a Grammy Nomination in 2015. In 2012, Michael’s solo debut recording “Reverence” was released.

Michael is currently faculty at NYU and travels around the globe as a clinician.

Michael will be playing with the BGSU Lab Bands 1 and 2 on Tuesday, September 26 at 8:00 PM. Located in Kobacker Hall in the Moore Musical Arts Center.  Michael will also be at Bar 149 on Wednesday, September 27 for jazz night starting at 8:30 PM.

Maria Schneider


Maria Schneider’s music has been hailed by critics as “evocative, majestic, magical, heart-stoppingly gorgeous, and beyond categorization.”  She and her orchestra became widely known starting in 1994 when they released their first recording, Evanescence.  There, Schneider began to develop her personal way of writing for what would become her 18-member collective, made up of many of the finest musicians in jazz today, tailoring her compositions to distinctly highlight the uniquely creative voices of the group.  The Maria Schneider Orchestra has performed at festivals and concert halls worldwide.  She herself has received numerous commissions and guest-conducting invites, working with over 85 groups from over 30 countries.

Schneider’s music blurs the lines between genres, making her long list of commissioners quite varied, stretching from Jazz at Lincoln Center, to The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, to collaborating with David Bowie.  She is among a small few to have received GRAMMYS in multiple genres, have received the award in both jazz and classical categories, as well as for her work with David Bowie.

Schneider and her orchestra have a distinguished recording career with twelve GRAMMY nominations and five GRAMMY awards.  Unique funding of projects has become a hallmark for Schneider through the trend-setting company, ArtistShare.  Her album, Concert in the Garden (2004) became historic as the first recording to win a GRAMMY with Internet-only sales, even more significantly, it blazed the "crowd-funding" trail as ArtistShare’s first release. She’s been awarded many honors by the Jazz Journalists Association and DOWNBEAT and JAZZTIMES Critics and Readers Polls.  In 2012, her alma mater, the University of Minnesota, presented Schneider with an honorary doctorate, and in 2014, ASCAP awarded her their esteemed Concert Music Award. 

Schneider has become a strong voice for music advocacy and in 2014, testified before the US Congressional Subcommittee on Intellectual Property about digital rights.  She has also appeared in CNN, and has been quoted in numerous publications for her views on Spotify, Pandora, digital rights and music piracy.  Most recently, she and concerned colleagues in New York have launched a widespread campaign on behalf of music-makers,  

Her recent collaboration with her orchestra and David Bowie resulted in his single called, "Sue (Or In A Season of Crime),” and brought her a 2016 GRAMMY (Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals).  Schneider and her orchestra also received a 2016 GRAMMY for their latest work, The Thompson Fields (Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album).

Schneider will be conducting Lab Band 1 on Friday, March 30th at 8:00 PM.  Located in Kobacker Hall in the Moore Musical Arts Center.

 Miguel Zenón


Multiple Grammy Nominee and Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenón represents a select group of musicians who have masterfully balanced and blended the often contradictory poles of innovation and tradition. Widely considered as one of the most groundbreaking and influential saxophonists of his generation, he has also developed a unique voice as a composer and as a conceptualist, concentrating his efforts on perfecting a fine mix between Latin American Folkloric Music and Jazz.

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Zenón has released ten recordings as a leader, including Típico (2017) and the Grammy Nominated Identities Are Changeable (2014). As a sideman he has worked with jazz luminaries such as The SFJAZZ Collective, Charlie Haden, Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, David Sánchez, Danilo Perez, The Village Vanguard Orchestra, Guillermo Klein & Los Guachos, The Jeff Ballard Trio, Antonio Sanchez, David Gilmore, Paoli Mejias, Brian Lynch, Jason Lindner, Miles Okazaki, Ray Barreto, Andy Montañez, Jerry Gonzalez & The Fort Apache Band, The Mingus Big Band, Bobby Hutcherson and Steve Coleman.

Zenón has been featured in articles on publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, as well as gracing the cover of Downbeat Magazine on two occasions (2010 and 2014). In addition, he topped both the Jazz Artist of the Year and Alto Saxophonist categories on the 2104 Jazz Times Critics Poll and was selected as 2015 Alto Saxophonist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association.

As a composer he has been commissioned by SFJAZZ, The New York State Council for the Arts, Chamber Music America, Logan Center for The Arts, The Hyde Park Jazz Festival, The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Jazz Reach, Peak Performances, PRISM Quartet and many of his peers. Zenón has given hundreds of lectures and master classes at institutions all over the world, and is a permanent faculty member at New England Conservatory of Music. In 2011 he founded Caravana Cultural, a program which presents free-of-charge Jazz concerts in rural areas of Puerto Rico. In April 2008 Zenón received a fellowship from the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Later that year he was one of 25 distinguished individuals chosen to receive the coveted MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “Genius Grant”.

Zenón will be playing at Jazz Night at Bar 149 on January 24.  He will also be joining the Lab Band 1 as a guest artist on January 25, in Kobacker Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center.

Updated: 02/01/2021 10:05AM