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Growing up in a musical home, Skip Wilkins, assistant professor of music, discovered an early love of jazz.

“I’ve been around jazz since I was a small child,” Wilkins says. “My father was a professional drummer, and there were always musicians around the house. I was always helping him move his drum kit in and out of the car for gigs. Though my dad wasn’t really a jazz drummer, he was playing a type of music similar to jazz. I fell in love with Count Basie and that was pretty much it. I had no choice.”

The Skip Wilkins Quintet will perform during the Reunion social and dance 9 p.m. Friday, June 1.

Last September, Wilkins released his latest project and the first CD in a two-album package, Skip Wilkins Quintet: Volume I on Dreambox Media.

The CD has received favorable reviews in The Philadelphia Inquirer and All About Jazz.

“Pianist Skip Wilkins goes from soulful, gut-bucket mode to rich ballads to angular modern jazz on this tasteful set of original tunes,” states the Inquirer review.

In addition to a Williams Center for the Arts concert, the quintet played at a number of venues to promote the new CD, including the Celebration of the Arts Jazz Festival and the famed Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, Pa.

Recorded over two days in May 2005 on stage at the Williams Center, the album features contemporary, original music by Wilkins from the 1990s up to the early 2000s. It is a live remote recording, meaning it was recorded outside a traditional studio without an audience. He and his group also recorded “Skip Wilkins Quintet: Volume II” at the same time; that album is scheduled for release this spring.

In addition to Wilkins on piano, recording and performing musicians include Paul Kendall on tenor saxophone, Tom Kozic on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, and Gary Rissmiller on drums.

Wilkins played excerpts from the album to his Lafayette students and was encouraged by their interest and enthusiasm. Being a working jazz musician helps him advise students interested in non-traditional paths in the music business.

“I’m using all of what I teach,” he explains. “It’s part of the vocabulary I need to function professionally outside Lafayette. Lafayette needed a ‘doer’ music theory teacher. Sometimes I revise my selections [for classes] based on something I encounter on the bandstand that I think will work. Part of what I seek to explain to students is how musicians use what it is that we’re learning. For instance, I’m working with a senior right now who really wants to be a composer, but that’s not a typical direction for a Lafayette student.”

Joining the Lafayette faculty full-time in 2001, Wilkins received a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for excellence in jazz composition. His music has received positive reviews from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Detroit Free Press, Morning Call, Express Times, Improvijazzation, and 52nd Street Jazz. He has performed at acclaimed venues such as the Deer Head Inn, Blue Orchid Inn, Allentown Symphony Hall, Wichita Jazz Festival, and Tavern on the Green. Previously, Wilkins taught at University of Northern Colorado, spending many of his eight years there in the nationally acclaimed jazz studies program. He earned a bachelor’s degree from College of the Holy Cross and a master’s degree from University of Northern Colorado. He also studied jazz composition and arrangement with Herb Pomeroy at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he was a faculty member.

Categorized in: Alumni