Special Reports

MA 30 The Innovators: Thomas Knific

December 6, 2016 | By Bruce Hodges

Professor of Double Bass, Head of Jazz Studies
College of Fine Arts, Western Michigan University

Thomas Knific is a charismatic teacher, composer, group leader, and side man to the greats, from Dave Brubeck and Randy Recker to Pepe Romero and André Watts. The founder and director of the school’s Western Jazz Quartet, he is also known for putting together diverse groups of musicians. One of his inventions is the annual String Jazz World Music Explosion at WMU, in which some of the university's string students collaborate with jazz faculty and special guest artists, such as Alon Yavnai, Jamey Haddad, and bandoneon expert J.P. Jofre.

“Sheer joy for all involved,” says Knific.

"I really enjoy the results of synergy between people and institutions. I find magic often happens with these concerted efforts.”

Knific’s range as a composer is borne out in his commissions from a range of both jazz and contemporary classical groups from the International Society of Bassists to OPUS 21. As a player he has premiered works by John Cage, Donald Erb, Chen Yi, Tania Leon, and dozens of others.

Knific has been at WMU since 1987 and has also taught at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Michigan State University, and the Cleveland Institute of Music. His master classes have taken him all over the world, to the China Conservatory of Music in Beijing; the Paris Conservatory; The University of the Arts, Berlin; and The Janácek Academy in the Czech Republic.

Also past president of the International Society of Bassists, he has appeared on five continents and made over 30 recordings. Knific is the recipient of the DownBeat magazine Achievement in Jazz Education award. Those who know his work credit him with changing the lives of student bassists worldwide.



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