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Ron Carter returns to the area to play at Robbie's

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 11, 2010 - Saxophonist and educator Ronald Carter, who leads the Northern Illinois University Liberace Jazztet in performance at Robbie's House of Jazz this weekend, has deep roots in the St. Louis area. Before Carter took over as the director for NIU Jazz Studies in 1994, he spent almost two decades working tirelessly to build the music program East St. Louis Lincoln High School (alma mater of Miles Davis) - and gain national acclaim for its jazz band in the process.

When Carter first began teaching at Lincoln High in 1977, only 15 students were in the music program. By 1980, the program had more than 100 students enrolled, and the Lincoln High Jazz Band had begun playing at prestigious festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe. The program helped focus the professional musical careers of alumni who became top-flight jazz musicians such as Russell Gunn, Montez Coleman, Tony Suggs, Terreon Gully and others.

Carter has built another outstanding jazz program at NIU, which has been named among the top 10 graduate jazz studies programs in the nation for the past 13 straight years. In addition, Carter has been named to Downbeat magazine's Jazz Educator's Hall of Fame - and is the program director for Jazz at Lincoln Center's Band Director Academy.

By the way, if you're wondering about Liberace's name in conjunction with a Jazztet, here's the explanation. The Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts has provided an annual grant to NIU since 2001 to put together an outstanding group of students in the program to be part of the Jazztet. The latest edition is releasing a CD, "Equity," this month. The current edition of the band features: pianist/trumpeter Ross Margitza, guitarist Julio Caliman Smarco, bassist Nathan Brown, drummer Xavier Breaker, Shawn Bell on trombone and Bryan Fritz on tenor sax.

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer who has long covered the area's music scene.

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