2012-06-23 / News

Graham, Grand Hotel Quartet Dazzle Windermere Point Park

By Andrew Marlan


Grand Hotel Music Director Alex Graham (on saxophone) and the hotel quartet play upbeat jazz at the Dog House at Windermere Point during an outdoors Lilac Festival concert Saturday, June 9. The other musicians are students from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, (from left) Stephen Wilder, Tim Buell, and Kyle Turco. Grand Hotel Music Director Alex Graham (on saxophone) and the hotel quartet play upbeat jazz at the Dog House at Windermere Point during an outdoors Lilac Festival concert Saturday, June 9. The other musicians are students from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, (from left) Stephen Wilder, Tim Buell, and Kyle Turco. Grand Hotel Music Director Alex Graham performed during the Lilac Festival at Windermere Point Saturday afternoon, June 9, with three of his students from the School of Music at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Graham is an assistant professor of saxophone at Belmont and has enjoyed the change of environment he finds in Nashville. He teaches jazz and commercial saxophone styles to undergraduate and graduate students and directs one of the university’s jazz ensembles.

“Belmont University has one of the only commercial music programs in the country, and the best, in my opinion, and has an amazing faculty of some of Nashville’s best musicians,” said Mr. Graham. “We recently we able to buy a house there, and my family and I have met some great people already and made some good friends. It’s a very exciting time.”

Nevertheless, he said that it is great to be back performing on Mackinac and at Grand Hotel.

The students have contributed a tremendous amount of creative energy to the hotel’s music this summer, he said, and he has thoroughly enjoyed seeing the progress that each student has already been able to make this early in the summer.

“It’s an honor to be here on this beautiful day,” he said Saturday. “This is a really wonderful event that we do every year, and I think we had to miss it last year because of the rain, so this is payback.”

He directs the Mackinac Jazz Initiative on Mackinac Island, an performance internship program he initiated in 2008, and has brought seven students from Belmont to work at the hotel. Three of the seven students played with him at Windermere Point and The Gate House restaurant in a quartet last weekend, Kyle Turco on guitar, Stephen Wilder on bass, and Tim Buell on drums. Mr. Graham played alto saxophone.

Vocalist Kayla Erb, saxophonists Jimmy Spilker and Steven Klaus, and pianist Adam Mosely are also in the program this year.

“They all bring a lot of talent to the table,” Mr. Graham said, “as well as a lot of enthusiasm for learning and playing music.”

During the summer, they also study music under Mr. Graham and work with veteran musicians on the hotel staff.

Mr. Graham completed his doctorate in jazz studies at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, in 2009. He lived in New York City for 10 years and returned to Michigan to become the music director at Grand Hotel in 2001. The groups he has directed have performed at festivals and clubs all over the country. He has opened concerts for Dave Brubeck, The Count Basie Orchestra, and John Pizzarelli.

He plays the alto saxophone and has performed with many artists, including Diane Schuur, The Four Tops, Nnenna Freelon, The Temptations, Michael Weiss, Aaron Goldberg, Mark Levin, The O’ Jays, Wessel Anderson, Jim Rotondi, Rodney Whitaker, Peter Bernstein, Steve Davis, Joe Magnarelli, Sam Yahel, Louis Smith, and Dena Derose.

The Gate House features the Alex Graham Quartet every Tuesday evening from 9 p.m. to midnight. Nightly music is also provided in the Terrace Room and other hotel venues.

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