By: Robert Lowery
Posted: Aug. 11, 2011
The students of iconic CWU jazz professor emeritus John Moawad are paying tribute to him in the way he would most appreciate, with a jazz album. Jazz alumni volunteered their time last spring to create a thirteen-tune big band CD to honor the late Moawad, the recognized dean of Pacific Northwest jazz educators. “For You,” funded by a grant from the Puget Sound Energy Foundation and Jazz in the Valley, will support jazz scholarships from the John Moawad Scholarship Endowment. The CD is available at the CWU Foundation web site, on CD Baby, and iTunes.
The alumni jazz band has traditionally closed Ellensburg’s “Jazz in the Valley,” a summer music festival conceived by Moawad protégé Jim Sisko in his master’s thesis. Competition for a seat in the festival’s John Moawad All Star Big Band has always been fierce and the musicians loyal. So it’s not surprising the alumni band donated their time and talent during two marathon-recording sessions in the Central music building last March.
The CD features new musical settings of traditional jazz standards such as “Body and Soul,” “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” and “Georgia On My Mind” plus an up-tempo jazz rendition of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Jazz alumnus Norm Wallen resurrected and carefully restored several other Moawad favorites from Moawad’s personal archives.
CWU alumni performing on the CD are: Bruce Babad, Matt Schneider, Mike West, Bob Bradley, and Greg Metcalf, saxophone; Sisko, Mike Mines, Greg Lyons, Jake Bergevin, and Alan Paxton, trumpet; and Wallen, Terry Freeman, Greg Schroeder, Jeff Sizer, trombone. The rhythm section was comprised of Trevor Johnson, guitar; Reuel Lubag, piano; Wayne Bliss, bass; and Garey Williams, drums. Chris Bruya, CWU’s director of jazz studies, conducted the band.
The lineage of jazz bands at CWU began in 1947, making it one of the first collegiate jazz programs in the nation. After performing in the band as a student, Moawad returned to Central a decade later to direct the jazz program, which he led for thirty years. His dynamic leadership inspired hundreds of aspiring teachers and musicians, and many of them remained close to the man they came to know as “Coach.” To further honor Moawad, Coach’s Coffee House was created in Wendell Hill Hall, across the street from the music building.
Moawad received the CWU Distinguished Professor Award in 1984 and was inducted into the Washington Music Educators Association Hall of Fame in 1998. He died in November 2009 at the age of 72.