Evan Roberson named Associate Director of the Duke Jazz Ensemble; composer Andrew Waggoner to teach Introduction to Jazz class

Tuesday, August 18, 2020
As John Brown, Director of the Duke Jazz Program, steps into the role of Vice Provost for the Arts, there will be two new faces teaching jazz with him this year.
Evan Roberson and Andrew Waggoner

While Professor Brown will continue to chart the direction of the Jazz Program and will be involved in its activities, Evan Roberson (photo left) will work with the Jazz Ensemble as the group’s Associate Director and composer Andrew Waggoner (photo right), who has previously taught improvisation and composition at Duke, will teach the Introduction to Jazz class.

A native of North Carolina, Evan Roberson holds a Bachelor’s degree with a concentration in Trombone Performance and a Master’s degree in Jazz Performance from East Carolina University. Since 2013, he has worked as a trombonist and soloist in many of John Brown’s ensembles, affording him the opportunity to perform with artists like Cyrus Chestnut, Nnenna Freelon, Wycliffe Gordon, Derrick Gardner, and Herlin Riley. Mr. Roberson has also traveled across North Carolina with Professor Brown, teaching master classes and clinics with him in many middle and high schools throughout the state.

Mr. Roberson is looking forward to working with the Duke Jazz Ensemble, noting he has performed with the group on several occasions and has “seen first-hand the love and care that Professor Brown pours into this program.” His goal as Associate Director of the Jazz Ensemble is to help the students “grow in their individual musical development and encourage a deeper appreciation for the art form.”

New Orleans native Andrew Waggoner’s association with jazz began in high school, when he attended NOCCA (The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) and came under the tutelage of the legendary Ellis Marsalis. “Ellis put together a quintet of four students with him anchoring the whole thing from the piano. He’d throw us mind-and-finger-bending original tunes that we’d rehearse for an afternoon and then go out and play at local college jazz festivals. It was crazy and challenging and life-changing. I got to play with Ellis, and with bassist Elton Heron and flutist Kent Jordan; these were my friends, my role models, my heroes,” Waggoner says.

Although Waggoner’s musical career has led him to become an award winning composer, his early association with outstanding jazz musicians gives him insights into the traditions and innovations of the art form that he looks forward to sharing with the Introduction to Jazz class. “We’ll focus on a few seminal people for each period and let their work light up the period in general,” he says. “That way we can really get into what made them special, talk about song/arrangement construction and improvisation, and get into all the cultural issues that naturally arise, chief among them racism…. We’ll also deal a lot with the ways in which Jazz remains an essentially African American art form, regardless of who’s playing it and how.” 

As Duke’s Jazz Program continues to evolve, Professor Brown looks forward with anticipation to the coming academic year. “I am very excited about what lies ahead as I assume the post of Vice Provost for the Arts, and I can do so with faith and confidence in what Evan and Andrew will bring to our program. I am deeply committed to creating the best experiences for our students and community, and I look forward to working with these two outstanding musicians and educators and friends to continue that tradition.”