Robert Baca is Professor of Trumpet and Director of Jazz Studies at the all undergraduate University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. His performance background includes countless performances in both classical and commercial areas including the Milwaukee Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra and the Phillip Brunelle “Plymouth Music Series Orchestra" as well as a past member of the popular radio ensemble for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” He has toured with Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Blood Sweat and Tears and numerous others as well as performing over countless Broadway shows and hundreds of recording sessions in Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Chicago. He has been employed at the Orpheum and State Theatre in the theatre district of Minneapolis for all concerts and Broadway Shows for the last 29 years. As a soloist, Robert has performed in China, London, Costa Rica and Europe as well as the United States.
Mr. Baca also directs the UW-Eau Claire Jazz Studies program which was recently cited in the New York Times as "one of the most well-regarded jazz studies programs in the country." Under Mr. Baca's direction, the UW-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble I has recorded 21 CD's, received the Down Beat award for Jazz Ensemble eight times and been nominated for a Grammy twice. Recently, Robert conducted the National High School Honors Jazz Ensemble for the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) at their national convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Other educational highlights include serving as a faculty member of Conn-Selmer Institute, conducting numerous all-state ensembles and presenting at educational conventions. Recently he received the first, “Career Excellence in Teaching Award” presented by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and was runner-up for the "Teacher Of The Year", UW-System Award. Mr. Baca is a past executive board member of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) as the United States Representative as well as an advisory board member for the Edwin Franko Goldman Band.
Mr. Baca loves to help students of any age reach their whole potential through an apprentice approach. Each week students practice with Mr. Baca from 7:30-9:00 each morning and afternoon when available, receive weekly lessons, trumpet studio class, trumpet choir and brass quintet coaching as well as attending concerts in the Twin Cities. He has been happily married to his wife Jodie for over 30 years and has two children, Alec and Nicole and a dog named Chewy.
Ryan Frane is the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he oversees the jazz studies major and jazz studies program, teaches Jazz Ensemble I, Jazz Combo I, Jazz Theory, Jazz Pedagogy, Jazz Piano and other courses. Ryan also coordinates the annual Head of the Lakes Jazz Festival at UMD, drawing internationally known artists and high schools from throughout the region. Under his direction the UMD Jazz Ensemble I has performed in Italy, Switzerland and Holland at the Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festivals, as well as performing at the MMEA and WMEA annual conferences, UNC/Greeley Jazz Festival and throughout the region. As a pianist, Ryan has performed throughout the country as well as in Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Holland and France. Ryan has performed with the Green Bay Packers band and was a member of the Denver Nuggets house band. He has performed locally with the Big Time Jazz Orchestra, Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, Arrowhead Chorale, Lake Superior Youth Chorus and many others including his own small groups. Among many other recordings, Ryan has two trio recordings as a leader “Live at Weber Music Hall” and “People We Know”. Ryan has recently backed or performed with many musicians including Bobby Watson, Maria Schneider, Mike Stern, Jeff Coffin, Ingrid Jensen, Jim Snidero, Wessell Anderson, The Mills Brothers, Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Bobby Vinton, Steve Lippia and many others. Ryan has been an active clinician and performer at several colleges across the country including the University of Northern Colorado, University of South Dakota, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Tiffin University, Lawrence Conservatory, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, University of Southern Colorado, Bemidji State University, Mankato State University. Ryan has conducted numerous honor bands in Minnesota and Wisconsin and has directed the MMEA All State Jazz Ensemble. Internationally, Ryan has performed master classes at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Boulogne-Billancourt (Paris, France), Conservatoire National de Région Lyon (Lyon, France) and Petrosovadsk State Conservatory (Karelia, Russia). Under Ryan's direction, graduates of the UMD jazz studies program have gone on to become teachers (collegiate level) performers and graduate students at some of the nation's strongest jazz schools while also becoming great contributors to society. Ryan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay and a Masters of Music in theory and composition from the University of Northern Colorado.
Bill Sears has been Director of Jazz Studies and Instructor of Saxophone at the Interlochen Arts Academy since 1987 and at the Interlochen Arts Camp since 2010. The award-winning Interlochen Arts Academy Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combos, under Sears' leadership, are considered to be among the finest high school groups in the country.
An active jazz saxophonist, Sears has performed, toured, and recorded with many leading musicians including Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Rick Margitza, Peter Erskine, Art Farmer, Joe Williams, and Nancy Wilson. He has also performed in backup orchestras for many popular artists, including Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, and The Temptations.
Sears also has two CD's under his own leadership, "Chasin' The Goal" and "With One Accord," both of which feature not only his engaging and individual saxophone voice, but also several of his compositions.
Sears is a Conn-Selmer performing artist and clinician.