November 23rd: The Prizewinners Pt. 2

23 Nov

Portland State Music: 30 for the 30th

Top: Brian Ward, Jason Weaver, Nick Kahl, Lars Campbell, Joe Gacioch
Bottom: Mark Hutchinson, Ken Ollis, Charley Gray

Putting Music Forward

In the spring of 2000, the Portland State University jazz ensemble traveled to the Reno Jazz Festival. The student combo that year took first prize in the college division.

In the ensuing twelve years the group’s seven musicians have carved distinctive paths. Some have remained in music, others have pursued different directions.  For each,  however music has been a formative experience, and an early indicator of the excellence that they have achieved.

Jason Weaver is the brand new principal at Hoover Elementary School in the Salem, OR.Hoover Elementary has the highest rate of poverty of any school in the district – 95%.  So it is just the kind of place you would expect to find someone who wants to make a difference.

Ken Ollis is a performer, composer and educator who combines the life of a professional musician with a relentless quest for his own unique musical path.

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Putting Skills to Work

Name: Jason Weaver

Instrument: trumpet

Student of David Bamonte, Charley Gray

B.M. 2003, M.Ed. 2004 Portland State University

Jason Weaver is very clear about the role of music in his life. “Without music I don’t think I would have gone to college, or even made it through high school,” he states.  At Portland State, Jason studied and performed both  classical and jazz, receiving his B.M. in 2003.  But despite being a trumpet performance major, it seems he was always compelled by teaching.  “I was always teaching,”he remembers.  “Summer music camps in Hood River, or at Self-Enhancement Inc. (a Portland after school program).  As part of his PSU Senior Capstone he served as a counselor at Camp Kiwanis- a summer camp for children with disabilities.

Being a music educator however, wasn’t quite the right fit. “I realized that I wanted to play a different role in the lives of kids,” he says.  That role took him into the classroom.   After completing his Bachelors in Music, Jason entered PSU’s Graduate Teacher Education Program, where he received an Elementary Education certification and landed his first teaching position at Kelly Elementary school in Portland. That experience  provided a wake-up call about the demands of classroom teaching. “Once I realized how much time it took to teach, I stopped playing gigs,” he says. “I didn’t’ have the time to practice each day, or even to warmup.”

A round of layoffs after his first year found him moving to Sherwood, OR, where he continued in the classroom.  It was at a subsequent position in the Salem-Keizer district, where the idea of being a school administrator came up.  “Some people started suggesting that I might do well in administration,” Jason says.

So he returned to PSU, where he received his Administration License from the School of Education in 2008.   A year serving as an Instructional Coach, providing professional development for teachers led to his first appointment as principal of Englewood Elementary School in Salem from 2010-2012.

In the fall of 2012 he was offered the position at Hoover Elementary. “This is a game-changer for me,” Jason says.  “We are providing a community for these kids.  We feed them breakfast, lunch, and a snack before they leave. They face enormous challenges.  But they are just kids.”

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What Has Your PSU Music Experience Meant to You?

“PSU taught me about service to the community, goal setting, and leadership; skills that transfer to life beyond college and support personal and professional growth.  I am grateful for the opportunities and support the PSU music department provided me towards my growth and development as an educator.”

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Putting Skills to Work

Name: Ken Ollis

Instrument: drums

Student of Alan Jones, Charley Gray, Darrell Grant, Bonnie Miksch

B.M.2000, M.M. 2003 Portland State University

In a 2008 Featured Musician piece in the Jazz Society of Oregon magazine, Rita Rega noted “Portland is exploding with talented young players and Ken Ollis is one of the most sought-after time-keepers. From funk to free, Ollis can pilot you there.”

For more than a decade Ken has been piloting musical ensembles and guiding students throughout the region.  He has performed extensively throughout the US, Canada, and Europe, and has played with a variety of musicians including: Kenny Werner, Ingrid Jensen, Julian Priester, The Drifters, Bud Shank, John Stowell, John Gross, Dan Balmer, Chata Addy, Rob Blakeslee, Rich Halley, Glen Moore, and many others.
Most recently, his projects have included work with Dominique Eade, Heather Masse (from The Wailin’ Jennys), Aoife O’Donovan (from Crooked Still), Pepe and The Bottle Blondes, Paxselin Quartet, and several other groups. Ken also regularly performs in collaboration with painters, poets, dancers, and cinematographers. His compositions are featured in the repertoire of the Paxselin Quartet, the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, PDX Ensemble, The Chamber of Commerce, and in his own groups.
Ken is Adjunct Professor of drumset at Portland State University and George Fox University.  His debut CD Confluence  features his original compositions performed skillfully by a five-piece ensemble that includes fellow PSU alums David Fleschner, and Lars Campbell.  His current projects include the Demolition Duo with flutist John Savage, and Senses Sharpened with Savage and pianist Dan Gaynor. ________________________________________________________________________________

What Has Your PSU Music Experience Meant to You?

“PSU taught me how to filter and process information in order to apply it in a creative context.  As an artist, it is critically important to find relevant information (musical or otherwise), understand how I can use it in my musical endeavors, and apply it bravely.  Stagnation comes quickly when this flow of ideas is slowed.  My education created the bridge between liking a concept (heard on recording, or at a concert, or read in a book), and understanding that concept deeply enough to take it to the next step.  Individual artistic growth depends hugely upon a smooth transition from information to application, whether it’s on a gig navigating my way through a tune I’ve never heard before, or coming up with an idea for a new composition.  In a nutshell, PSU taught me how to learn.”

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