A performer, producer, composer, and conductor, Michael Shirtz is known for his versatility with jazz, contemporary, and classical music, reaching out to audiences of multi-generations. His interest for traditional music is clearly evident in his work as a conductor and educator, while his passion in contemporary music is his noted forte. His vocal style captures the warmth and lyricism of a Mel Tormé on smooth ballads, and up tunes are distinct with energy, drive, and a hint of gospel and blues. As a pianist, Shirtz has remained deeply influenced by the innovation of Dave Brubeck’s keyboard styles, which are infused into Michael’s groups. Among Shirtz’s greatest attributes are his diverse, instrumental-like scat-singing and cool ease with his audiences. After a concert an audience member commented, “It’s like listening to Mel Tormé meets Brubeck!”
Shirtz began his musical career while in high school fronting small house bands to leading variations of big bands and jazz combos, including the Michael Shirtz Quartet. It wasn’t long before Michael was traveling, producing, and performing popular themed concerts and tribute shows. These unique jazz infused programs have reached out to a broad audiences, creating a unique following that embraces music lovers of all ages to Michael’s music. After a nine-year break to pursue other musical interests, Shirtz returned to performing in 2014 by reestablishing the Michael Shirtz Quartet and expanding his interest in composing and arranging music; from performing traditional jazz styles and incorporating Blues, Funk, Rock, Gospel and Singer/Songwriter material. Shirtz released his first solo album, “Blue Skies” in February 2018.
Today, Shirtz performs with the Michael Shirtz Quartet as well as developing educational programs in jazz and American music in schools and communities. He serves as the conductor of the Symphony Chorale with the Firelands Symphony, continues to compose and write music for various projects, including the musical Headliner, and joins Maureen McGovern as performer, music director and arranger.
Christopher Walker (he•him) is a composer, performer, sound engineer, and music organizer active in spaces for nonprofit performing arts, education, festivals, clubs, and other venues.
Through both his professional and scholarly output, Christopher maintains an actionable research agenda focused on deconstructing white supremacist and patriarchal frameworks within cultural institutions. He serves as Director of Development for the national Jazz Education Network, administrates a chamber music series with Emerald City Music, and teaches audio classes at The Vera Project.
Christopher holds performing and production credits on more than twenty recorded releases. His currently active musical project is the avant-pop duo Other People’s Energy with composer-improviser Skyler Hill.
Since 2017, Christopher has produced a weekly two-hour radio program called Tonotopicalia on KUZU LP-FM with co-host Louise Fristensky. The broadcast highlights contemporary composition along with new releases of genre-blurring popular music and has garnered an avid international following.
Christopher is a proud member of The Recording Academy, American Composers Forum, Society of Composers, Inc., Jazz Education Network, American Society for Public Administration, American Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers, as well as a co-founding member of the Errant New Music Collective.
Dr. Lou Fischer is Co-Founder, Past President, and the Conference Coordinator for the Jazz Education Network (JEN). A Professor Emeritus of Music at Capital University in Columbus, OH. (1994-2020), Lou acted as Jazz Studies Chair from 2001-2017, as directed the Big Band, the conFUSION BAND, and taught Jazz Theory and Jazz Arranging. His Capital big band was featured at the Montreux, North Sea, Lyon, and Umbria Jazz Festivals in Europe as well as at many other regional festivals receiving outstanding honors, awards and praise in each venue. Lou is the Founder of the Annual Capital University Jazz & World Music Festival which brings in student ensembles from regional middle & high schools to campus to participate in a non-competitive festival of jazz.
While at the University of North Texas, Dr. Fischer was a member of the UNT One O’Clock Lab Band (1971-1974). Returning to the university environment after his extensive professional touring career of 25+ years, Fischer holds a BM (1991) in Jazz Studies, an MA (1992) in Composition, both from the University of Denver, and a Doctor of Arts in Bass Performance with a secondary in theory & composition from Ball State University (1999).
As the former eleven year jazz division head for Music For All, Lou’s fifty-eight year career represents a virtual Who’s Who in Music, including composing and/or performing studio work, Broadway Shows, and extensive touring with The Crusaders, Red Rodney, Airto, Charlie Byrd, Andy Williams, Emmy Lou Harris, Woody Herman, Louis Bellson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Bill Watrous, and Bobby Shew among many others.
A select list from the 200+ recordings include groups he has co-founded: highTIME Morning Walk; Three As One Decisions; and Beaux J Poo Boo All Things Are New, each on Summit records. In addition, he has performed on Steve Houghton’s Gershwin: The Manne We Love; Rich Matteson’s Pardon Our Dust We’re Making Changes featuring the legendary Louis Bellson; Bill Watrous’ A Time For Love & Bone-i-fied; Shelly Berg’s The Joy; Frank Mantooth’s Jazz Orchestra A Miracle; and Sunny Wilkinson’s High Wire.
A Yamaha Artist Representative, performing on the Yamaha Silent Bass exclusively, clinics/concerts have been performed in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea, Great Britain, Scandinavia, Mexico, South Africa, and three hundred+ institutions across the U.S.
Educational textbooks include: Stylistic Etudes in the Jazz Idiom, (Hal Leonard); Jazz Solo’s for Bass Vol II (Kendor Music); and Rhythm Section Workshop for Jazz Band Directors (Alfred), which includes an Educator’s Manual,a dvd, 5 student workbooks, and a play-along cd co-authored with Shelly Berg-piano, Fred Hamilton-guitar, and Steve Houghton-drums.
Lou has directed All State Ensembles in Texas, Michigan, North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, Colorado, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Louisiana. In addition he has directed the MFA National Honors Jazz Band of America in 2010 and 2013. His big band composition Mr. Lee’s Groove, named in honor of world-renowned drummer artist Leon Ndugu Chancler, is available for free download on the JEN website.
Kelly is happy to be a member of the staff at JEN. Previously, she was the head vocal producer/coach for the Caleb Chapman Soundhouse, company music director at Utah Conservatory of Performing Arts, Music Academy Chair at Pioneer High School for the Performing Arts, and a private vocal coach of 25+ years.
Previous to her education career, Kelly has had extensive experience in stage performance and studio recording. She has two albums of her own in the contemporary Christian genre, and has been a featured vocalist on countless other albums. In theatre, most recently, Kelly performed in the broadway development studio workshop of In The Light, written by Michael Mott, and directed/choreographed by Broadway choreographer Jeff Whiting.
Since joining JEN, Kelly has developed some new skills – web design, graphic design, and copy editing, to name a few.
Kelly has a BFA in Music Dance Theatre from Brigham Young University.
Swiss/Dutch saxophonist Charlotte Lang was born in 1996 in Basel and studied the bachelor and master program at the JAZZCAMPUS Basel under the guidance of Domenic Landolf and Daniel Blanc. She is currently studying the Master of Music in Global Jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston under the artistic direction of Danilo Pérez. In addition she is part of Terri Lyne Carrington’s Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.
From 2015 to 2018, Charlotte she was a member of the Swiss National Youth Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Christian Muthspiel. Since 2020, she became a member of the German National Youth Jazz Orchestra (Bundesjazzorchester Deutschland), under the direction of Niels Klein and Ansgar Striepens. She also plays is the Austrian FJO (Frauen Jazz Orchester→Women Jazz Orchestra of Austria).
In 2021, Charlotte founded her own Quintet the „Charlotte Lang Group“, for what she is composing, arranging and booking. In the fall 2023, her first album will be recorded and hopefully released by a renowned label.
Charlotte plays in the “Swiss Jazz Orchestra” and the “Zurich Jazz Orchestra”, the two professional Big Bands of Switzerland.
Charlotte recently got the unique opportunity to write a monthly blog for the Swiss Jazz & Blues Magazine called JAZZTIME, to tell readers about her time at abroad and specifically her time at Berklee. Her graduate program lasts only until the summer of 2023. She hopes to stay in the United States to enlarge her network and build her musical career.