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Faddis, Levin Take Reins of Chicago Jazz Ensemble

The Columbia College-based Chicago Jazz Ensemble (CJE) announced the appointment of two key positions on Monday: new artistic director Jon Faddis and new managing director David Levin. Both appointments came as the result of a yearlong search after the death of the ensemble’s founder and conductor, William Russo, in January 2003.

“The Chicago Jazz Ensemble is a truly world-class band, and I was honored even to be considered, much less asked, to be its artistic director,” says trumpeter Faddis. “My goals are to help raise the profile of the CJE, to further develop its musical excellence, to introduce new music with the band, to provide more opportunities for audience involvement and understanding, and to increase educational outreach to students and jazz fans of all ages.”

Faddis brings to the position more than 30 years of experience performing with and conducting respected and well-known big bands. Faddis began his professional career at the age of 17, when he graduated from high school and joined Lionel Hampton’s big band. Since then, he has played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra and the Mingus Big Band. While he also served as music director for Dizzy Gillespie’s Grammy-award winning United Nation Orchestra and Dizzy Gillespie’s 70th Birthday Big Band, he is mostly known for his leadership in conducting the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band.

Faddis is already recognized for his devotion to teaching, having conducted master classes and clinics for students around the world, and he proposes to make the Chicago Jazz Ensemble even more dedicated to educational outreach and making musical opportunities available to students. He has been appointed as a guest lecturer at the college and he will lead master classes and workshops designed to achieve that goal.

New managing director David Levin comes to the CJE with a distinguished career in arts and media management, encompassing 25 years. He has held positions as vice-president of WFMT Radio Networks, Chicago, where he played an role in creating the first fully customized satellite-delivered jazz and classical music format services; station manager of WILL-AM and FM at the University of Illinois-Urbana; and general manager of WSVH in Savannah, Ga.

“I have already experienced the remarkable talent of our musicians and the support they receive from loyal, devoted fans,” says Levin. “Bill Russo left an exceptional legacy for Columbia College Chicago and Chicago itself. Jon Faddis’ appointment as our new artistic director, together with the continued support of Columbia College and the CJE Board of Governors, puts us in a unique position to infinitely strengthen our presence in Chicago and around the world.”

The CJE has been in residence at Columbia College since its inception in 1965 and the 20-piece jazz orchestra is comprised of some of the city’s best jazz musicians. Its repertoire is primarily derived from the early works of Duke Ellington, Stand Kenton, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton, and the group has dedicated much of its time to performing around Chicago and the rest of the country, in addition to its Educational Outreach Program in Chicago public schools.

The CJE will be performing a 10-week engagement on Monday nights at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase in Chicago from October 11 through December 13 and will kick off the Sixth American Heritage Jazz Series in February. For more information on the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, visit

Originally Published