Posing after their performance at the 40th Annual 2009 Pee Wee Russell Memorial Stomp at the Birchwood Manor in Whippany on March 1 are (from left): Michael Zdeb, Rowan University; Michael Preen, New Jersey City University; Jacob Webb, William Paterson University; Andrew Michalec, Rutgers University; and Brent Chiarello, Rutgers University. Photo by Tony Mottola.
Michael Preen, Bass, New Jersey City University (Don Robertson Scholarship). A graduate student from New Orleans of musical parents, Michael’s father is a drummer and his mother is a singer. He only began studying music in his late teens and was improvising from the very beginning. Michael also plays guitar and drums. His favorite musicians are Ron Carter, Paul Chambers and Wayne Shorter. Michael began writing music at age 23 and is now writing arrangements for large and small ensembles. He humbly says he is still waiting to make a breakthrough with his instrument.
Michael Zdeb, Guitar, Rowan University (Bill Walters Scholarship). Michael is a junior from Red Bank who has studied music from age 12, beginning on drums. He also plays piano and can function on most of the instruments in the orchestra. Michael’s favorite musical styles are fusion, bop and blues and his favorite musicians are Joshua Redman and Michael Brecker. His fondest musical memory is playing with his teacher at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Michael started improvising at age 15 and writing music at 16. His other interests are reading, fishing, snowboarding, and anything adventurous.
Jacob Webb, Bass, William Paterson University (Jack Stine Scholarship). Jacob is a sophomore from Kansas City whos has been studying music since age 13. He also plays classical piano. His favorite composers are Ellington, Basie and Goodman and his current favorite tune is “I’m Old Fashioned.” Jacob began improvising and writing original soul music at 14 and had his first regular paying gig a year later. Jacob says he takes musical inspiration from his brother Nathan, a drummer and graduate student at WPU.
Andrew Michalec, Piano, Rutgers University (Pee Wee Russell Scholarship). A graduate student from Akron, Ohio Andrew has studied music from the age of 4. He began improvising with blues when he was only 8 years old and at 17 he decided jazz was going to be his thing. Andrew’s favorite musicians are Bill Evans, Dave Kikoski and Fred Hersh. Andrew also started writing music at 21.
Brent Chiarello, Trombone, Rutgers University (Pee Wee Russell Scholarship). A graduate student from Wantaugh, NY and the son of music educator parents, Brent been studying music since the age of 7 and also plays piano and euphonium. His favorite musicians are Frank Rosolino, Jim Pugh and Conrad Herwig and his favorite composers are Shostakovich, Rimsky Korsakov and Thad Jones. Brent began improvising at 13, writing music at 19 and is now doing a lot of arranging for a variety of small groups configurations.