(The following Town and Gown column originally ran in the January 6, 2009 edition of the Jacksonville News)
Town and Gown:
Jazz Professionals Play to Work
and Work to Play
By Dr. William A. Meehan
How many people can say they found their life's calling at age ten? Mace Hibbard, Jacksonville State University's adjunct professor for Jazz Studies and saxophone, was born into a musical family and took piano and voice lessons before his fingers settled on saxophone.
A native of Waco, Texas, Hibbard's foundation in jazz history and standard charts comes from his father, Dave Hibbard, a renowned trumpet player now located in Chicago. During formative teenage years, Hibbard had the opportunity of playing gigs with his father around Texas. Further expanding the chords of this musical family is Hibbard's sister, Sarah, a vocalist also located in Chicago.
The music department at JSU is fortunate to have Hibbard teaching classical and jazz saxophone, improvisation and jazz theory, as well as directing a jazz ensemble and combo groups. He works well with the Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Professor of Trumpet, Dr. Cameron "Chip" Crotts.
Together, Dr. Crotts and Hibbard bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to educate and entertain students and the community in Jacksonville. Both of these musicians have toured the United States and Europe playing their instruments.
Dr. Crotts has toured and performed with popular artists such as Ray Charles, Maynard Ferguson, The Temptations, The Four Tops and Mary Wilson and the Supremes. He is also continually called to play with shows traveling through Birmingham, such as Monty Python's Spamalot, a musical comedy off Broadway.
One of Dr. Crotts' senior trumpet students, Bryan Sintos, says, "It's great to have a professor who is both a teacher and a mentor. I learn from him when he plays with me during a lesson and when he performs for an audience."
Other than his father, Hibbard has played with greats such as Wynton Marsalis, Arturo Sandoval, The Temptations and The Four Tops. Hibbard is most recognized today for his compositional skills. He has written hundreds of arrangements for instrumental groups, and has recently published a book of technical studies for saxophone. Last year, Hibbard released the technically exhilarating and grooving self-composed CD, When We Last Met.
Bruce Pulver of Jazz Review, an online magazine guide to jazz music, states in a review of When We Last Met, "Pay attention to the non-assuming, intensely thoughtful aura to Mr. Hibbard's playing and composing... each progressive listening begs another." The acclaimed bassist playing with Hibbard on this CD's tracks is his JSU music colleague, Marc Miller.
Hibbard, who resides in Atlanta, is also an adjunct music professor at Georgia State University. When he is not teaching, he is in full demand as a performing artist. Hibbard can be found at Atlanta's premiere jazz club, Churchill Grounds, several times a month and spends what little extra time he has traveling to many other states to play.
The holiday break from school was no break for these two professors who continued gigging in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Hibbard and Dr. Crotts are two JSU professors who practice what they teach, and this ability reaches music students on a level which increases their ability and desire to become stronger players.
For more information, visit www.music.jsu.edu or contact the Music Department at (256) 782-5559.
Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and Communications, contributed to this article.