A veritable “Ambassador of Jazz,” Professor Michael Tracy is one of America’s foremost jazz educators, with more than thirty-five years of performing and teaching experience. In classrooms, studios, and concert halls, he has developed a variety of innovative approaches to jazz education, enabling him to work with students of any proficiency. Tracy has taught and performed throughout the United States, Argentina, Australia, Belize, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, and Wales. As a Fulbright Senior Specialist, he helped establish a jazz program at the Estonian Music Academy in Tallinn, Estonia. He has frequently coordinated and hosted groups sponsored by the Open World Cultural Program, an organization that brings jazz musicians from Russia to the United States to interact with their American counterparts. Tracy has also been instrumental in establishing faculty and student exchanges and workshops with institutions in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Poland and Russia.
Professor Tracy is Director of the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studies Program at the University of Louisville School of Music in Louisville, Kentucky, where his responsibilities include teaching saxophone, advising graduate and undergraduate students, and directing the annual Jazz Fest (formerly Jazz Week) which he founded in 1994. In addition to his duties at the University, he is a longtime faculty member of the widely renowned Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops, where he has served for over thirty-seven years. Each summer he teaches combo, jazz theory, and saxophone master classes with the world’s leading jazz educators and as camp administrator is responsible for organizing and coordinating all educational programs and activities. He also founded the Louisville Jazz Workshop to offer high and middle school students the opportunity to experience improvisation and jazz performance. Tracy’s dedication to jazz education has not gone unnoticed. He is the recipient of several awards including the 1996 School of Music Alumni Service Award; the 2000 University of Louisville Distinguished Faculty Service Award; and a 1999 Red Apple Award. He is also a two-time National Endowment for the Arts Award winner, and is a member of the 2000 Who’s Who in Executives and Professionals and 2005 Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.
Although education has been the main focus of his career, Tracy has also made forays into the worlds of recording, publishing, and arranging. He has six CDs to his credit. The most recent effort, Surfboard (2012, Summit Records: DCD 593) features an all Brazilian rhythm section (Renato Vasconcellos, Leonardo Cioglia and Vanderlei Pereira) performing Brazilian selections by Jobim, Pascoal and others in addition to new originals written specially for the CD by contemporary Brazilian composers. Wingspan (2010, SeaBreeze: SBJ-3092), features Italian pianist Davide Logiri and showcases originals and arrangements of jazz standards. Conversations (2008, SeaBreeze: SBJ-3088), is a collection of duets with pianist Harry Pickens. Gusting (2004, SeaBreeze: SB-3071) offers a variety of contemporary compositions and was preceded by Tracings (2003, SeaBreeze: SB-3062), which includes originals and Brazilian standards and arrangements. Facets, released in 1999, features the saxophone in a variety of previously unrecorded classical and jazz works from composers with ties to the state of Kentucky.
Tracy’s publishing accomplishments include authoring the books Jazz Piano Voicings for the Non-pianist and Jazz Saxophone Survey: A Descriptive Analysis of 38 Saxophonists, and co-authoring Pocket Changes: 421 Standard Chord Progressions and Pocket Changes II. As an arranger, he has been featured on PBS television and National Public Radio, where his re-scoring of Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera for twenty-piece saxophone orchestra was broadcast.
Professor Tracy holds Bachelor’s of Music and Music Education degrees and a Master’s of Arts in Higher Education from the University of Louisville. Among his teachers are nationally prominent jazz musicians such as Jamey Aebersold, David Liebman, Jerry Coker, and David Baker and he has shared the stage with such stars as Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, J. J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Johnny Mathis, Marvin Hamlish, the Four Tops and the Temptations. He has also teamed up with jazz greats Jamey Aebersold, David Liebman, Rufus Reid, David Baker, Bobby Shew, Jerry Coker, Dan Haerle and Pat La Barbera for concerts and club appearances around the world. Additionally, Tracy has performed and recorded with the Louisville Orchestra in both classical and pop settings and was an Artist-in-Residence for the Kentucky Arts Council from 1980 until 1988.