Grammy-nominated Dr. Gene Aitken is considered one of the most exciting and energetic jazz clinicians today, and is recognized as a visionary in both jazz education and computer technology.
His activities as a conductor, performer, composer, adventurer, clinician, adjudicator, and producer of educational events have led him to all corners of the globe. His recent travels to Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq brought him to the Middle East with the objective of bringing together the different religious factions to work towards a common goal; the rehearsal and performance of American Jazz music combined with local traditional music.
On April 15, 2011, the United States Department of State, on behalf of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, announced Dr. Aitken was the recipient of a Fulbright Specialist Award to assist Fu-Jen University in developing a jazz curriculum for an undergraduate degree in jazz studies. As well, Dr. Aitken interacted with numerous community organizations to facilitate the establishment of the first jazz studies degree in the country.
In June 2007, he was awarded DownBeat magazine's Jazz Educator of the Year and inducted into the DownBeat magazine's Hall of Fame. In addition, he was the 32nd member inducted into the 1995 International Association of Jazz Educator's Hall of Fame along with Ella Fitzgerald and Doc Severinson, joining luminaries such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and others. Dr. Aitken is only one of four individuals in the world who have received induction into both organizations' Hall of Fame.
In 1985, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded the University of Northern Colorado Vocal Jazz Ensemble a prestigious Grammy Nomination. It is the only time NARAS has ever awarded this honor to an institution of higher education in the vocal jazz area.
Dr. Aitken will return to China again this October and November 2012, for the fifth year, with concerts in Shanghai and neighboring cities. He is the Events Director of the new First China Jazz Education Festival, sponsored by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, from 22-24 November. This will be the first China international jazz festival featuring American and Chinese jazz artists and educators listening to and providing workshops and clinics for student jazz combos and big bands from throughout China and Asia.
In July/August 2012, the LeBAM International Summer Band Camp held its second international band camp in the mountain town of Baskinta, Lebanon. Musicians from the neighboring countries of Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon had the opportunity to work with music educators and conductors from Venezuela, the United States, Spain, Hungary, Romania, and Russia. This was the first time a music teacher training and conducting track was offered in the Middle East and was an integral part of the LeBAM ISBC. Dr. Gene is in his second year as Director of the LeBAM ISBC.
This past May through July 2012, Dr. Aitken traveled again to the Asia and the Middle East conducting and teaching for the Houston-based non-profit organization, American Voices and the YES Academy (Youth Excellence on Stage). Concerts and 10-day master classes were held in the countries of Lebanon, Thailand, and several cities in Iraq.
In January to mid-March 2011, Dr. Gene returned to Afghanistan three times to be of assistance to students at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul and other cities. Dr. Aitken presented a jazz concert/lecture at the US Embassy in Kabul with students from ANIM on 1 March 2011 to help celebrate Black History month. After this event, he traveled to Herat, located in the western part and to Mazar-i-Sharif in the northern part for an extended period of time to help local students and professional musicians.
In 2009, Dr. Aitken was appointed to the music faculties of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the Xhinghai Conservatory of Music (Guangzhou, China). Each year he will present concerts and/or master classes at these institutions as well as the American International School of Guangzhou.
In June 2007, Dr. Aitken was appointed the first Cultural Envoy to Nepal by the US Department of State. While there he worked with the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory Jazz Ensemble, the Nepal Police Academy Band, and the Nepal Army Band.
Dr. Aitken currently spends most of his time teaching jazz and music education in Asia and the Middle East, and retired a second time, this time in 2007 as Director of the Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore. During his tenure at NUS, he was responsible for the construction and completion of one of the most acoustically advanced designed music buildings, recording studios and concert halls in Asia. The state-of-the-art facilities were opened in November 2006.
He retired from the University of Northern Colorado in 2002 after serving 27 years as Director of the Jazz Studies Program.
28 September 2012