Meet the SJMO
Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra • Big Band & Ensemble
The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO) Big Band features all 17 musicians, in addition to occasional special guest performers. The SJMO Ensemble, Quintet, and Quartet feature smaller groupings of the large ensemble. See below for the full lineup by section and further information about each musician.
Artistic Director and Conductor
Executive Producer and Drums
Charlie Young, coordinator of jazz studies at Howard University and a professor of saxophone, officially assume the role of SJMO artistic director and conductor for the orchestra’s 2013 performance schedule.
Charlie has been a member of the SJMO since 1995 and served as the ensemble’s principal saxophonist for more than 15 years. He has been a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra since 1988, serving as its conductor and is currently the lead saxophonist. Charlie and his jazz quintet presented the inaugural concert and lecture at the opening of the New American University in Cairo in 2008. His performing and recording career includes working with the National Symphony Orchestra, the U.S. Navy Band, the Count Basie Orchestra and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. He has shared the concert stage with many of the music industry’s leading icons ranging from Clark Terry and Ella Fitzgerald to Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones in venues ranging from London’s Royal Albert Hall to New York’s Carnegie Hall.
He is also published on more than 30 recordings, including his latest release “So Long Ago.” Charlie, a native of Norfolk, Va., studied at North Texas State University and earned his master’s degree from Howard University. He is a recognized clinician in the field of jazz education as well as classical and jazz saxophone performance. Watch Charlie and the SJMO perform in Moscow in 2011.
Kennith R. Kimery, Executive Director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and Jazz Oral History Program, has produced over 300 concerts in Washington, D.C.; received critical acclaim from the Washington Post; was featured in Smithsonian Magazine; and awarded “Excellence in an Artistic Discipline” at the 18th Annual Mayor’s Arts Awards.
Since 1992, the SJMO has traversed the United States taking the Museum to the four corners of our country. Performing in locales ranging from Charleston, SC , Fairbanks, AK, Scottsdale, AZ , Lacrosse, WI, Providence, RI, and Houston, TX, the SJMO has reached audiences in over 40 states. Some of the many highlights include concerts at the historic Apollo Theater in 1993; Symphony Hall in Atlanta, GA for the 1996 Olympic games; nationwide in 1996 for the Smithsonian’s 150th traveling exhibition and birthday celebration on the National Mall; the Washington National Cathedral for Duke Ellington’s Centennial; the Monterey Jazz Festival; the Ravinia Jazz Festival in 2005-2006; and the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in 2007 for a performance of Duke Ellington’s “Such Sweet Thunder” with Mercedes Ellington and Avery Brooks.
Building on its Washington, DC and national touring successes, the Orchestra embarked on its first international tour in 1999 performing in Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Saskatoon, Canada; Istanbul, Turkey; The Hague, Netherlands; Vienne, Bayonne, and Antibes, France; Gijon and San Sebastian, Spain; Perugia, Italy; Pori and Helsinki, Finland; and the Barbican Theatre in London. In 2008, the Orchestra was featured at the International Association for Jazz Education conference in Toronto, Canada paying tribute to Quincy Jones and traveled to Egypt presenting concerts and educational outreach at the Pyramids, Cairo Opera, Alexandria Opera House, and the American University in Cairo. The SJMO embarked on U.S. Department of State sponsored tour to three cities in Russia as part of the U.S. – Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission in May of 2011 and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July of 2012.
Composer, arranger and saxophonist Steve Williams has enjoyed a nearly forty-year career performing many styles of music.
Since 1994, Steve has been a member of The United States Navy Band Commodores, and the group's lead alto saxophonist since 1997. He joined The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra in 2014 as its lead alto saxophonist.
Steve has appeared on several albums including the Latin Grammy winning (2008) "Caribbean Jazz Project/ Afro-Bop Alliance Big Band featuring Dave Samuels." In August 2012, Steve released his own album on OA2 Records. Entitled "Steve Williams and Jazz Nation." The album features a 17-piece big band, world-renowned jazz clarinetist Eddie Daniels and Steve's original songs and arrangements. Steve is a graduate of The University of North Texas, where he was a two year member of the world renowned "One O' Clock Lab Band."
Bill Mulligan has played with legendary artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mathis, Stanley Turrentine, Nancy Wilson, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. He was a saxophone and clarinet soloist for three European tours of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, returning to that show in 2010 for Arena Stage’s acclaimed production at the Lincoln Theatre starring Maurice Hines.
Bill earned a Bachelor of Music, summa cum laude, from The Ohio State University. While at Ohio State, he was selected to perform as lead alto saxophonist with the Walt Disney World All-American College Band. In addition to performing with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, he is the leader of the Navy Band Commodores Jazz Ensemble..
Scott A Silbert is the chief arranger for the United Stated Navy Band. He has composed/ arranged more than 300 works for the band, while actively performing, teaching, and conducting clinics. Scott has studied with jazz legends such as Phil Woods, Manny Albam, and Jerry Kalber.
He performs with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and has appeared with Rosemary Clooney, Bob Hope, Stanley Turrentine, Andy Williams and The Temptations. Scott lectures frequently, having recently presented jazz history clinics at the Navy Band's International Saxophone Symposium at George Mason University. Watch Scott performing “Work Song” with Eddie Metz Jr.
More information coming soon.
Leigh Pilzer has appeared at DC’s top jazz venues including Blues Alley, Twins Jazz, Jazz Night in Southwest, the Kennedy Center, and the Atlas Performing Arts Center, performing with her own groups as well as with SJMO, The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, and many others. National and international appearances with SJMO and DIVA include venues across the United States and concerts in Canada, Croatia, Egypt, England, France, Germany, and Russia.
Leigh has a bachelor’s degree in Jazz Composition and Arranging from Berklee College of Music and master’s degrees in Jazz Studies and Saxophone Performance from the University of Maryland. She is currently working toward a doctorate in saxophone with a jazz emphasis at George Mason University. Watch Leigh play the title track from her debut CD Strunkin’
Liesl Whitaker is lead trumpeter with the Army Blues, the Premier Jazz Ensemble of the United States Army. She is the first woman to win a lead chair in any of the premier US military jazz ensembles.
Liesl has studied at both Appalachian State University (Boone, NC) and The University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, working with teachers such as, Bill Adam, Pat Harbison and Joe Phelps.
Liesl is an in-demand musician in New York City, and has worked with groups such as the Ed Palermo Big Band, the Diva Jazz Orchestra, and the Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra. Watch Liesl performing “Swing That Music” with Sherrie Maricle and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra.
Tom William’s musical career began at an early age. While still in high school, Williams performed frequently throughout the Maryland/D.C. area. Tom joined the U.S. Army Jazz Band in 1997, claiming the role of featured soloist in the Jazz Ambassadors.
He has performed with many artists such as Philly Joe Jones, Patti LaBelle, and Anita Baker. As a leader, Tom has recorded two CDs on trumpet, "Introducing Tom Williams," and "Straight Street", as well as a record on drums with his band InterPlay, called "Pick Up The Pieces." Tom began teaching both drums and trumpet at Howard Community College. Listen to Tom play "Aggression" from his album, "Introducing Tom Williams."
Brian MacDonald is an esteemed trumpet player who has studied with legends such as Bobby Shaw and Roger Ingram.
Early in his career, Brian studied at Broward Community College, while playing in the International Association of Jazz Educators National Community College Jazz Band as well as a show band in Spain. He then continued his studies at the University of Miami.
Brian has played with prestigious groups such as KC & The Sunshine Band, as well as Maynard Furgeson’s Big Bop Nouveau Band. Brian is currently the lead trumpet player for United States Air Force Premier Jazz Orchestra: The Airmen of Note, as well as a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Watch Brian play "Begin the Beguine" with The Airmen of Note in 2009.
Kenny Rittenhouse is a professor of Jazz Trumpet at George Mason University, and a member of many revered ensembles.
Kenny completed his undergraduate degree at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and has since completed post graduate work at the Eastman School of Music, Duquesne University, and the University of Maryland.
He has played with artists such as James King, Steve Gadd, Ahmad Jamal, and Dr. Bill Taylor. Kenny has taught clinics with Jamey Aebersold, and is a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, The United States Army Band (Pershing’s Own) and the Army Blues Jazz Ensemble. Watch Kenny perfoming "Work Song" with the Kenny Rittenhouse Septet at DC Jazz Fest in 2013.
Jennifer Krupa earned her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Florida. After graduating she stayed in Florida to work for Universal Studios and Walt Disney World, the Studio Brass and Show bands at Disneyworld, as well as with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Jen has an Artist Diploma in Jazz Studies from the Julliard School of Music.
She moved to Washington DC and joined both the United States Navy Band Commodores Jazz Ensemble, and Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
Her resume is anchored by work with artists such as Patrick Williams, Christian McBride, Arturo Sandoval, and Andy Martin. She continues to do studio and session work in both Washington, DC and New York City. Watch Jen performing at the 10th Annual Jazz Appreciation Month celebration at the National Museum of American History.
Bill Holmes is an esteemed trombonist in the Smithsonian Masterworks Orchestra who plays frequently throughout the Washington, DC area.
Bill has performed with a tremendous amount of prolific musicians and orchestras such as, the Saturday Night Live Band, Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, Patti LaBelle, Quincy Jones, James Brown, The Temptations, Tito Puente, Mickey Hart, American Jazz Orchestra, and the Fairfax Symphony.
He received his Bachelor’s degree from Temple University, and his Master’s Degree from Catholic University of America. He has studied with Al Grey, Irving Smith, Milt Stevens and Sigmund Hering. Bill maintains his own private studio in Arlington, VA. where he teaches trombone and bass. Watch Bill perfroming "Ogoniland" composed by Kenny Rittenhouse with The US Army Blues Band.
Benjamin Polk, originally from Greenbush, Maine, earned his Graduate Artist Certificate in Music Performance from the University of North Texas, Master of Music from the University of Minnesota, and Bachelor of Music from James Madison University.
Ben is an adjunct instructor of music at Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College and has been the bass trombonist with the United States Air Force Airmen of Note since 2013. He has performed with the Nashville Symphony, the Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra, and many leading jazz artists, including Bobby Shew, Stefon Harris, and Wycliffe Gordon.
Tony Nalker performs widely in Washington, D.C., currently serving as jazz pianist with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra Pops, and The U.S. Army Blues.
Since 1989 Tony has been the pianist of the premiere jazz ensemble of the U.S. Army, The Army Blues, is currently the group’s enlisted leader, and will be retiring from the Army in early 2017. Nalker plays for the highest levels of the U.S. government and military and has performed on USO tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also toured on musical diplomacy missions throughout the world for the U.S. State Department. Since 2005, Tony has served as pianist of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, performing throughout the country to share the Smithsonian’s collection of iconic jazz works with the American public. Since 2012, he has also worked with the National Symphony Orchestra Pops. He has also performed on hundreds of recordings in a variety of styles including jazz, folk, children’s music, pop, Broadway, and country.
Tony is the pianist for Hal Leonard Publishing’s Jazz Play-Along series which has produced nearly 200 instructional books with CDs and for Alfred Publishing’s Jazz Play-Along and big band series. His numerous compositions and arrangements range from works for big band and smaller jazz ensembles to theater, dance and film. Tony received his undergraduate degree in music from James Madison University and his M.A. in music from the University of Iowa. Watch Tony perform "I'm Gonna Lock My Heart" with for PBS Great Performances with bassist Kate Davis.
James King is a staple of Washington, DC jazz.
Having lived in DC for more than 25 years, and performed all over the world, James brings wealth of experience and an inimitable style to the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
James has studied at Texas Southern University, Hampton University, and the University of the District of Columbia. He has performed with jazz royalty such as Elvin Jones, T.S Monk, Marlena Shaw, Buck Hill and Stanley Turrentine. James also leads own successful quartet, and frequently plays national and international jazz festivals. Watch James performing “Diamond in the Rough” with Nasar Abadey & Supernova at the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival.