November 4th: The Dynamic Duo

4 Nov

Portland State Music: 30 for the 30th

Name: Ben and Michelle Medler

Instruments: trombone, bass,

saxophones, clarinets, flute, vocals

Students of Charley Gray

B.M. Jazz Studies 2001

Putting Music Forward

The first challenge Ben and Michelle Medler faced was trying to obtain Bachelor’s Degrees while teaching full time at Wilson High School. With band director Marc Wolters, the two ran a full scale music program. “We learned some invaluable skills at Wilson,” says Ben.  They have used those skills become champions for jazz and music education throughout the Northwest.

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Putting Skills to Work

Ben and Michelle Medler have been a force in Portland’s music scene for over 15 years.  As performers and music educators, they are as prolific as they are effective.   Among the many ensembles they have formed and lead, both separately and together are The Medler Big Band, Trombone 8, The Medler Septet, Quadraphones, The Shanghai Woolies, Michelle Medler Quartet, La Tropikan, and Heavy Brothers Inc.  Performing music that ranges from vintage swing to latin to powerhouse funk, the Medlers are equally at home on stage or passing on knowledge in the classroom.

Michelle  is a multi-instrumentalist performing on saxophones, flute, clarinets, and vocals  Her Jazz quartet, MMQ, has performed at the Portland Jazz Festival, The Rose Festival – Wine Cheese and all that Jazz festival in Rockaway Beach, OR, The Rogue Brewery’s Distiller’s Festival, PSU, McMennamin’s Kennedy School, Music Millennium, weddings, schools, & more.

Ben is an active leader and sideman in Portland’s jazz community playing trombone, electric & acoustic bass, trumpet and singing.  He is on the faculty at Portland State University as the Jazz Trombone & Jazz Small Group instructor.

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Adding Something Unique

In 2001, Ben and Michelle created PYJO (the Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra). PYJO is a year-round jazz education program that provides Portland area middle and high school music students a place to grow and study Jazz.  Since starting with one band of 15 students, the program has grown to five bands catering to ages 12-26.  PYJO alumni have gone on to win scholarships to high-level music schools and become professional musicians and educators across the country.  Now the program has come full circle and PYJO graduates are now returning to train for their futures as educators by working as instructors in the program.

The Medlers are excited that after 11 years, the Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra has found it’s own home. The Burlingame Space was established in April of 2012.  Conceived by the Medlers as a creative space for making music: small concerts, recitals, rehearsals, classes, lessons, recording sessions and a resource for the community, new classes at the space include: the Burlingame Symphonic Band and the Burlingame School of Vocal Jazz.

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What Did PSU Music Mean to You?

“PSU was and continues to be an integral part of our music education.  To study with active performers who have dedicated the time to teaching is a luxury. PSU’s jazz program provides a very effective study towards professional musicianship.  We’re thankful for this opportunity!”


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