Steve Sample, Sr.
Steve Sample, Sr is a renowned bandleader, arranger, composer and jazz educator now residing in Bellingham, Washington. For more than 30 years, Sample was a professor in the Music Department of the University of Alabama, where he directed the Jazz Ensembles and taught music theory, arranging and jazz related courses. Steve trained many notable jazz musicians during his long tenure at Alabama, including Gary Wheat, Birch Johnson, Kelley O'Neal, Chris Gordon, Mervyn Warren, Cedric Dent, Beth Gottlieb, Mart Avant, Dick Aven and Ray Reach. He is respected by his peers as one of the finest jazz educators in the United States. On September 26, 2008, Steve was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame for his contributions to jazz education.
Steve began playing and arranging professionally with traveling road bands in 1948, after graduating from University High School, Normal, Illinois. He traveled with various road bands, until he enlisted in the Air Force in January 1951. From 1951 until January 1955, he played in and wrote arrangements for the 542nd USAF Band, Craig Air Force Base, Selma, Alabama. He enrolled at the University of Alabama in January 1955 and received his Bachelor’s Degree in 1958. Sample joined the music faculty in September, 1958, and continued to work on his Master’s Degree, receiving it in June, 1962.
Years on faculty at the University of Alabama
While on the Theory/Composition faculty at Alabama, he taught Theory I, II and III, 16th and 18th Century Counterpoint, Form and Analysis and Orchestration. He served as staff arranger for University of Alabama concert and marching bands from 1955 to 1973. In 1967, he organized the University of Alabama Jazz Ensembles and later organized the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in Arranging. In these programs, he designed the curriculum for and taught classes in Arranging, Advanced Arranging, Studio Orchestration, Jazz-Pop-Rock Composition and Music Calligraphy.
Work as arranger
Professor Sample has served nationally at jazz festivals and competitions as a judge, clinician and director. His arrangements have been, and still are, being performed by high school, college and professional jazz bands, marching bands, symphony orchestras, tuba/euphonium ensembles, choral groups, the Los Angeles Flute Orchestra, the SuperJazz Big Band, the Dallas Jazz Orchestra and various vocalists and soloists.
Other professional activities
Other professional activities include teaching and directing at the Stan Kenton Summer Jazz Band Camps, serving on the U.S. College All-Star Jazz Band Advisory Board and two terms as Alabama State President of the National Association of Jazz Educators. While attending the Arranger’s Workshop at the Eastman School of Music in the summer of 1974, he was selected to write a feature arrangement for Stan Getz, tenor saxophonist. In 1982 and 1986 he took jazz combos on tour in Guatemala and Costa Rica. In May 1986, he took the University of Alabama Jazz Ensemble to Disney World for three days of performing.
During the course of his tenure at the University of Alabama, he and the UA Jazz Ensemble worked with such stars as Bob Hope, Dave Brubeck, Jim Nabors, Vic Damone and Joan Rivers plus jazz greats Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie, Dee Barton, Bill Watrous, Urbie Green, Alan Vizutti, Gene Bertoncini and Rich Matteson. The Jazz Ensembles won and/or participated in local and regional jazz festivals including Tallahassee, Florida, Memphis, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia and Mobile, Alabama. The UA Jazz Ensemble also traveled to and performed at the Wichita and the Notre Dame Jazz festivals.
Former students of Sample’s jazz program include:
- Birch Johnson, top New York City trombonist. Played with the Woody Herman Band, the Tommy Dorsey Band and the Blues Brothers.
- Mart Avant, trumpeter and arranger. Founding member and director of the Tuscaloosa Horns.
- Steve Sample, Jr., drummer with the Glenn Miller band.
- Cedric Dent and Mervyn Warren, members of the jazz vocal group Take 6, Both Cedric and Mervyn got their Masters Degrees in Arranging with Sample.
- Chuck Tilley, drummer, who has toured with Lee Greenwood, Engelbert Humperdinck and Dolly Parton. Tilley is now a member of the group Sixwire.
- Alison Prestwood, bassist, who worked in the New York City and Atlantic studios and is now one of the top players located in Nashville.
- David Pugh, trombonist, is now an editor and arranger for Belwin Publishers.
- Juliene Purefoy, saxophonist, now has her own 17 piece jazz band in Miami, Florida and is also a touring artist for Yamaha.
- Ray Reach, pianist, singer, arranger and teacher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) (1998 - 2005), currently Director of Student Jazz Programs at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Reach was Sample's first graduate assistant at the University of Alabama, and has produced and/or recorded with numerous notable jazz players, including Lou Marini, Lew Soloff, Ellis Marsalis and Eric Essix.
- Karen Smith, flutist and music calligrapher, first call copyist at Hayen Music (1985-1986), head librarian at Jo Ann Kane Music (the top music copying house in L.A.), head librarian at Sony Music Preparation Office, Sony Studios, worked as copyist for Warner Brothers, Disney and Paramount Studios, maintained the personal libraries of John Williams, Lalo Schifrin, George S. Clinton (Austin Powers composer), Johnny Mandel, and David Benoit, head librarian for the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra from 1991-1993. She now works for them and the Los Angeles Philharmonic as an assistant librarian. Karen was instrumental in founding and developing the Los Angeles Flute Orchestra
- Bethany Smith Staelens, vocalist and actress based in Seattle, Washington.
In 1982, Sample wrote the text book “An Approach to Mainstream Jazz and Pop Harmony.” He has published both original compositions and arrangements with the Dallas Jazz Orchestra (now known as Dallas' Original Jazz Orchestra). In addition, he has published a String Orchestra arrangement of “Silent Night” with Belwin Publishers. Since retiring, he has continued to send arrangements to the SuperJazz Big Band in Birmingham, Alabama. He has written for the Los Angeles Resonance Flute Consortium and the trombone section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
Sample became acquainted with the FINALE music software program in 1988 and has become quite adept with its writing and printing aspects, using a Macintosh computer. Since retiring, he and his wife Brenda now reside in Bellingham, Washington, where his main hobby is woodworking but he still writes almost every day. He now collaborates on projects with Phil Kelly, a retired television and film composer/arranger who also lives in Bellingham.
Samples' son, Steve Sample, Jr is an accomplished jazz drummer, having played with many notable jazz groups, including the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Night Flight Big Band and the Magic City Jazz Orchestra.
Recordings featuring Steve Sample's arrangements
- UAB SuperJazz, Featuring Ellis Marsalis, produced by Ray Reach and Henry Panion (2001)
- Big 30, Galen Jeter and Dallas' Original Jazz Orchestra (2004)
- Messin' With Texas, Galen Jeter and Dallas' Original Jazz Orchestra (2006)
- Big Band Theory, Bethany Smith Staelens (2008)
- Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame website
- Review of Dallas' Original Jazz Orchestra's latest CD, "Messin' With Texas," at AllAboutJazz.com