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Whitworth Jazz Ensemble Receives Overall Outstanding Award at Elmhurst College Jazz Festival

April 3, 2013

The Whitworth Jazz Ensemble with
jazz musician Byron Stripling
The Whitworth Jazz Ensemble was honored as an Outstanding Band at the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival, held in Chicago Feb. 21-24. The ensemble, under the direction of Dan Keberle, director of jazz studies and trumpet professor at Whitworth, performed a 30-minute set as a part of the opening act for the Saturday night concert, which featured the world-renowned Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra.

This was Whitworth’s first time participating in the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival, and Whitworth was one of five bands to receive an Overall Outstanding Award. Elmhurst College hosted 30 college bands at its 46th annual jazz festival. The panel of judges comprised Byron Stripling, Dennis Mackrel and Bobby Floyd; all three are prominent, professional jazz musicians, recording artists and former members of the Count Basie Band.

“Receiving this honor is very affirming for us and for our students because three of the other five university jazz bands that were named outstanding have several graduate and doctoral students in them, people who are often seasoned professionals that come back to school for a graduate degree in jazz studies,” Kerberle says.

Over the past 20 years, the Whitworth Jazz Ensemble has performed at a high-quality level that has resulted in the ensemble winning numerous awards and earning high praise.

“Whitworth attracts top musical and academic talent among high-school music students,” Kerberle says. “We also have highly accomplished jazz faculty here, people who are excellent not only as performers, but most importantly as teachers of jazz music. Our students make rapid progress compared to those at many other institutions.”

At the festival, five Whitworth soloists received individual musician awards: Kyle Moreen, alto saxophone; Adam Ohlson, piano; Ellie Tappa, vocalist; Andrew Repsold, drums; and Jansen Leggett, drums.

“It was surreal that these amazing, accomplished musicians said that our band was a highlight and that they were inspired by us,” says senior music major Ellie Tappa. “Each of them made a nice comment about my vocal solo as well, which was very encouraging for me.”

Tappa has been in the vocal jazz class for four years. She is also a member of the Whitworth Women’s Choir and is a percussionist in the Whitworth Symphony Orchestra. After graduating from Whitworth, she plans to move to Seattle to pursue a career in the music business.

“I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged by how much the judges enjoyed our performance and praised our playing,” says senior music major Andrew Repsold. “It also gave me perspective on how fortunate we are to be under the direction of Dr. Keberle. Seeing how much he was respected by Byron Stripling and some of the jazz giants in Maria Schneider’s Big Band made me realize how special it is for us to have him as our director.”

Repsold has been a member of the jazz ensemble for four years. He also helps lead Hosanna, a student-led worship service on campus, and is a member of Whitworth’s wind symphony, orchestra, percussion ensemble and a jazz combo. Repsold is considering continuing his musical education after graduating from Whitworth, in hopes of becoming a music professor at a university.

The Whitworth Jazz Ensemble recently released a new CD, Sermon!, which is available for free in the Whitworth Music Building office. In January 2014 theensemble will travel to and perform in Rome for the eighth time.

The Whitworth Jazz Ensemble members are: Caleb Brown, Sarah Curry, Laura Everett, Savanna Jenkins, Ethan Johnson, Nick Kmet, Jansen Leggett, Kyle Moreen, Kyle Nash, Noah Peller, Adam Ohlson, Tom Okura, Chris O’Neal, Andrew Repsold, David Richmond, Cory Thompson, Billy Tipke, Henry VanderHouwen, Mike Williams and Ryan Worthington.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Joan Lack, music program assistant, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3280 or

Lucas Beechinor, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or