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Oct. 18, 2011
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:

Music professors jazzed about reunion concert

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – It’s a story that unfolds daily at Slippery Rock University: Faculty mentoring students. A role reversal of sorts will play out October 24 when Jason Kush, a former SRU music major who now teaches music at the University, conducts a concert starring his mentors, Stephen Hawk, SRU professor of music, and Terry Steele, SRU professor emeritus of music.
       The young jazz aficionado will conduct Hawk and Steele as soloists accompanied by the SRU Jazz Ensemble. They will perform songs by Maynard Ferguson and other composers. “SRU Jazz Generation” will be at 7:30 p.m. at the University Union.
          “This event is extraordinary to me because Terry and Steve were enormous influences on me as a student, musician, educator and human being,” said Kush, a 2004 SRU graduate. “More importantly, their influence on the music department is immeasurable. This concert honors these two former directors and celebrates the continued mentorship they provide me.”
Steele, a saxophonist, will be featured on “'Round Midnight” and “Cherokee.” Hawk, a trumpeter, will be a featured soloist on “My Funny Valentine” and medley of Maynard Ferguson songs.  Steele and Hawk will solo together on Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High."
      Hawk and Steele said they knew Kush was a gifted saxophonist when they began tutoring him as a high school student from the Johnstown area. Kush, who said it was always his dream to teach jazz at SRU, drove two hours for lessons with Steele.
Hawk and Steele said they knew Kush was a gifted saxophonist when they began tutoring him as a Johnstown high school student. Kush, who said it was always his dream to teach jazz at SRU, drove two hours for lessons with Steele.
    “He’s been like a son to me,” Steele said. “It has been joyful working with him ever since he was a teenager. His dedication and focus was far beyond his years.”
     Hawk said he remembers Kush as mature for his age and dedicated, the kind of student who would hole up in a practice room Friday nights. “He was really, really talented,” Hawk said.
        While regarding their protégé as a surrogate son, Steele and Hawk are like the fathers of jazz at the University. Steele started the Jazz Ensemble in 1975 and directed the band until 1997. He retired in 2007. Hawk took over as director of the ensemble, and Steele started the jazz combo program. David Glover, professor of music, started a second jazz ensemble when he joined SRU in 2002. Kush took over as Jazz Ensemble director in 2011.
        Jazz has become so prominent at SRU that callers to the University who are put on hold hear a recording of student jazz musicians. Several CDs, including “Jazz at The Rock,” have been released.
      “Terry Steele and Steve Hawk were absolutely the main reason that I chose to attend SRU for my undergraduate degree,” Kush said. “Terry helped me become the best saxophonist and best person I could be. We worked on the mechanics of the saxophone, studying both classical and jazz music. Terry showed me how music can deeply affect both the performer and the listener. He helped me to transition from student to professional.”
     Kush said Hawk raised the level of expectation.  “As good as the group became, he would always help the ensemble to reach a higher level,” Kush said. “His technique for rehearsing the Jazz Ensemble is the technique I use today.
      Kush said both mentors embody the professional musician who can play at a world-class level and teach effectively. “Taking over the role of the SRU Jazz Ensemble is a great honor as well as responsibility. Steve set the bar very high. It is my job to continue the tradition of excellence by increasing the performance level, providing new and special opportunities for the students and ensuring an excellent overall education.”
      The suggested donation for the concert is $3 for students, $5 for the general public.


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.