SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Jason Kush is best known for directing the Slippery Rock University Jazz Ensemble, but don't pigeonhole him as just an academic type.
Kush's prowess as a saxophone performer propelled him to the international stage recently. Kush, an assistant professor of music, and fellow saxophonist Terry Steele, SRU professor emeritus of music and Kush's mentor, toured Europe as members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, performing solos that earned applause from audiences and recognition from Maestro Manfred Honeck.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, comprised of musicians from around the world, uses Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall as its home venue. It was founded in 1895.
The orchestra hired Kush to play soprano saxophone, while Steele played tenor for the tour. The orchestra performed in Frankfurt and Bonn, Germany and Lucerne, Switzerland. Each performance sold out.
During the last week of the orchestra's three-week tour, the orchestra performed Ravel's Bolero, a piece that features solos from several members of the orchestra, including tenor and soprano saxophones.
Kush said having first-hand experience like a European tour is uncommon for full-time university professors. Regular members of the symphony generally teach part time at music conservatories due to busy performance schedules.
"Not only was the experience wonderful for me as an active professional, but I also am bringing this experience back to SRU," Kush said. "In a recent master class, I described the entire tour to my music-major saxophone students."
"Performing on this tour also brought great notoriety to our University, as having an SRU faculty member in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, as well as Professor Emeritus Terry Steele, displays a sample of our high quality faculty at SRU," he said.
Kush, a 2004 SRU graduate, joined SRU in 2009. In addition to teaching and coordinating the saxophone studio, Kush directs the SRU Jazz Ensemble, saxophone quartets, saxophone ensemble, jazz combos and teaches the "Instrumental Improvisation" course.
He earned his master's degree in music in jazz pedagogy and doctor of musical arts degree in saxophone performance at the University of Miami.
Steele taught music at SRU from 1976-2007. He was a 2006 nominee for the President's Award for Teaching Excellence and was a founding member of the SRU Faculty Jazz Quintet. During his tenure at SRU, Steele established both the SRU Jazz Ensemble and the jazz combos. He has performed with a broad array of international music stars, including Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.