Pictured from left to right: Miro Sprague, Mike Cottone, Eric Miller, Dave Robaire, Jonathan Pinson, Diego Urbano and Joshua Johnson.
The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance opened its doors on the UCLA campus in summer 2012 and welcomed seven talented students to the two-year program.
Meet the Class of 2014:
Mike Cottone, trumpet, was born in Rochester, New York. He began playing trumpet at age 10 and received the Howard Hanson and Rochester International Jazz Scholarship to attend the Eastman School of Music, where he received a double degree in jazz performance and music education. After graduation, Cottone moved to New York City, where he received his master’s degree from The Juilliard School and traveled with the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble to Colombia, South America to teach and perform. He was a featured performer at the Blue Note’s Emerging Artist Series and has also performed in the Broadway production of Hair and in the What is the Big Band Era concert series with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Josh Johnson, alto saxophone, was born in Takoma Park, Maryland and grew up in Naperville, Illinois. He began playing saxophone at age 11. Johnson attended the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, graduating with bachelor’s degree in jazz studies and a performer’s certificate. He was one of 15 fifteen jazz musicians invited to participate in the Steans Music Institute for young artists. Through the program, he studied with Curtis Fuller, Rufus Reid, and David Baker. Johnson has taught privately in Indiana and Illinois, and has performed at numerous festivals around the country.
Eric Miller, trombone, was born in South Huntington, New York. He began studying trombone at age 9 and became first soloist for the Nassau-Suffolk Jazz Ensemble at age 14. Miller attended the New York State Summer School of the Arts Jazz Institute at Skidmore College, and participated in Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program. During his junior and senior years of high school, he was first trombone in the GRAMMY jazz ensemble, performing with McCoy Tyner, James Moody, and others. Miller received his bachelor’s degree in jazz studies from Manhattan School of Music. He has studied with Wycliffe Gordon and Luis Bonilla, and has performed with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.
Jonathan Pinson, drums, was born in Los Angeles and began playing piano at age 6, later switching to drums at the age of 10. He won the 2007 Los Angeles Music Center’s Spotlight Award while still in high school. Pinson attended the Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship, receiving a bachelor’s degree in music. He has performed with John Clayton, Dave Liebman, and Eric Reed, among others. Pinson also has appeared at numerous jazz festivals around the world including the Newport Jazz Festival, the Montreal Jazz Festival, and the Martha’s Vineyard Jazz Festival.
Dave Robaire, bass, was born in Los Angeles and began playing bass at age 16. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The New School in New York, where he studied with John Patitucci. Robaire also performed with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Andy Milne’s Dapp Theory while living on the East Coast. He returned to Los Angeles to attend the California Institute of the Arts, where he received a master’s degree in jazz studies. Robaire has performed with Anthony Wilson, Bob Sheppard, and Larry Koonse, among others.
Miro Sprague, piano, was born and raised in Buckland, Massachusetts. He began playing piano at age 13 and received several Student Music Awards from DownBeat magazine. Sprague received a bachelor’s degree in jazz piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music. He has performed with Reggie Workman, Sheila Jordan, Matt Wilson, and Sonya Kitchell, among others, and has appeared at the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival. Sprague taught at the Interplay Jazz Camp and was an Artist-in-Residence at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire.
Diego Urbano, vibraphone, was born and raised in Santiago, Chile. He taught himself to play drums at age 5 and began studying classical percussion at age 10. As a teenager, he began playing and performing jazz as a vibraphonist. Urbano relocated to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he began collaborating with Argentinian jazz artists such as Ernesto Jodos. He appeared on Jodos’ recording El Jardin Seco, which won the Gardel Prize for Best Jazz Album of 2009, the highest recognition in Argentinean music industry. Urbano is currently finishing his self-titled debut album.
One of the Institute's earliest goals was to create a unique college-level jazz program where the masters of jazz could pass on their expertise to the next generation of jazz musicians the way Thelonious Monk had done in his Manhattan apartment throughout the '50s and '60s. In September 1995, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance was launched and the first class of seven students began their intensive training with some of the world's greatest musicians.
The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance is a tuition-free two-year program that accepts one ensemble of musicians for each class. All of the students receive full scholarships, as well as stipends to cover their monthly living expenses. The students study both individually and as a small group, receiving personal mentoring, ensemble coaching, and lectures on the jazz tradition. They are also encouraged to experiment in expanding jazz in new directions through their compositions and performances.
The Institute of Jazz Performance students and instructors present a number of major concerts and community outreach programs throughout the United States and overseas. International highlights include performances at the celebration commemorating the 40th anniversary of the coronation of the King of Thailand, the 1998 Summit of the Americas in Chile before 34 heads of state, the United Nations "Day of Philosophy" event in Paris sponsored by UNESCO, and the Tokyo Jazz Festival. The students have also participated in tours of China, Egypt, Argentina, Peru, India, and Vietnam with Institute Chairman Herbie Hancock.
Since the program’s inception, students have studied with Kenny Barron, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Nnenna Freelon, Herbie Hancock, Barry Harris, Roy Haynes, Jimmy Heath, Dave Holland, Wynton Marsalis, Danilo Pérez, Dianne Reeves, John Scofield, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, and Clark Terry, among many others.