Friday, September 22, 2017

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Bill Yeager (center) received the 2016-17 Faculty Monty Award for the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts. (Photo: Ken Jacques) Bill Yeager (center) received the 2016-17 Faculty Monty Award for the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts. (Photo: Ken Jacques)
 


SDSU Jazz Director Claims Prestigious Awards

The SDSU director of jazz studies was inducted into the California Alliance for Jazz Hall of Fame.
By Teresa Monaco
 

This year’s commencement speaker for the San Diego State University College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, Bill Yeager, is sure to inspire both graduates and their guests.

Yeager is celebrating a particularly successful year and is being recognized both here in the United States and abroad. He recently became the first SDSU representative to be inducted into the California Alliance for Jazz Hall of Fame at the California All-State Music Education Conference (CASMEC). Yeager also received the 2016-17 Faculty Monty Award for the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts. The award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions to teaching, research, and community service and comes with the honor of serving as commencement speaker for the college.

He is also receiving international attention. The German government recently invited Yeager to represent the United States during “Jazz aus Deutschland” ("Jazz from Germany")—a government visitors program on the German jazz music scene.

“It’s nice to receive these honors while still teaching, and I look at all of them as a way to promote SDSU and our jazz program,” said Yeager. “Going to ‘Jazz aus Deutschland’ is especially exciting, and the potential for SDSU jazz is even more exciting.”

Storied career

Yeager has been the director of jazz studies at SDSU since 1985 and is credited with turning the program into one of the most respected in the country.

Under Yeager’s direction, the SDSU Jazz Ensemble won the National Collegiate Jazz Competition in Orlando, Florida, and has been featured at several renowned jazz festivals, including the Monterey Jazz Festival at Sea, Hawaii International Jazz Festival and Ensenada Jazz Festival.

Yeager graduated from the University of North Texas and cited his playing experience in Dallas in the 1970s as a huge influence on his musical career.

“The music industry was at a peak,” he said. “The recording industry in Dallas had blossomed into one of the biggest in the country, and I was fortunate enough to break into the scene there.”

During his time in Texas, Yeager was fortunate to work with numerous world-class artists, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett.

“When I moved to Los Angeles, I was mostly playing trombone for those first few years,” Yeager said. “I really missed conducting, and that's how the LA Jazz Workshop got started."

Bringing in professionals

As founder, director and owner of the LA Jazz Workshop, Yeager conducted multiple diverse ensembles, taught trombone lessons, and oversaw budgeting, hiring, and faculty supervision for the organization.

Through his work at the LA Jazz Workshop, Yeager forged relationships with countless professional musicians. Students in the SDSU Jazz Ensemble directly benefit from Yeager’s connections in the music industry.

"I try to bring in at least one world-class player a semester,” Yeager said. "Students need that outside perspective of someone coming in whose playing is on the next level."