On Tuesday March 25, at 7 p.m., in the Tope Auditorium, the Nevada Middle School and High School jazz bands will be in concert for our Spring Jazz Night. This year is extra special. Nevada alumni Wally Olsan (‘48) was active in the band, particularly jazz band. During high school he formed a dance band that performed in Nevada and he was active as a trumpet player in the Red Sneaker Jazz Band for years. Wally passed away this past summer and his family graciously donated a memorial to the band to use at our discretion. About that time, the band was also looking for our guest artist to perform. Dr. Bob Washut, University of Northern Iowa, agreed to appear and asked if we would like to have him write a composition for this concert. In this concert, the premiere performance of this piece will be performed by the high school jazz band. This has been a great learning opportunity for our students to prepare a piece that has never been heard.
Robert Washut is professor of Music at the University of Northern Iowa, where he served as director of jazz studies from 1980-2002. An accomplished jazz composer and arranger, Washut has received numerous commissions from collegiate and high school jazz ensembles, professional jazz artists and symphony orchestras. During his 22 years as director of the award-winning UNI Jazz Band One, Washut recorded 11 CDs (two of which earned 5-star ratings from DownBeat magazine), toured Europe three times, consistently received “Outstanding Band” recognition at collegiate jazz festivals throughout the Midwest, and was awarded three “Outstanding Performance” citations in DownBeat’s Annual Student Music Awards.
He is in demand as a clinician and adjudicator throughout the country, having conducted all-state jazz bands in 16 states. He is also an active jazz pianist who founded the locally popular Latin jazz band, Orquesta Alto Maiz, in 1986. Washut recorded and released a jazz trio CD titled “Songbook” in 1999 and a jazz duo CD (w/Chris Merz) in 2007. With Orquesta Alto Maiz, he has recorded 10 CDs and performed nationally and internationally. Washut was inducted into the Iowa IAJE Hall of Fame in 2003, the Des Moines Community Jazz Center Hall of Fame in 2013 and was selected as Outstanding Teacher at UNI in 1996.