Jazz Band Staff

Jazz Band Staff

Don Owens

Don Owens, Coordinator Emeritus of the Jazz Studies and Pedagogy Program, Director Emeritus, Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the National High School Music Institute at Northwestern University, began his tenure at Northwestern University in 1979. He retired in 2005.

Owens received the Bachelor of Music Education degree from North Texas State University, where he also studied Composition and Jazz. His Master of Musical Arts degree is from the University of Illinois, where he majored in Composition.

Mr. Owens is the composer/arranger of over 100 works, including those for band, jazz band, orchestra, choir, and chamber music. His music is available from the composer via Phramus Music Publications. Owens is the author of several articles dealing with contemporary music.He is an international clincian and guest conductor, having directed over a dozen all-state ensembles, plus several residencies across the U. S. and abroad.

In March of 2015, Mr. Owens conducted the combined forces from Downers Grove North and South High School Wind Ensembles and guest artists in Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue at Carnegie Hall.

Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Beth Steele
Executive Director / Conductor

The Executive Director of Music at the Summit is Ms. Beth Steele, who is an experienced musician and conductor. Beth created Music at the Summit and is the driving force behind it's continued growth and improvement. She received her Bachelor of Music (Trumpet) degree and Master of Music (Wind Conducting) degree from Northwestern University in 1988 and 1989 respectively. Ms. Steele has performed on trumpet in many ensembles including: the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; New Sousa Band; Virginia Symphony; and the British Imperial Military Band.

Beth served as a career US Army musician, where her duties included: Associate Director, US Army Band “Pershing’s Own”, Washington, DC; Conductor, Continental Army Band, Hampton, VA; Commandant, Army School of Music, Virginia Beach, VA; Conductor, US Army Field Band and Soldier’s Chorus, Washington, DC; and most recently as the Commander of the US Army Europe Band & Chorus in Heidelberg, Germany.

While in Europe, Beth developed enduring partnerships with European musicians and was awarded the German government’s highest peacetime award: The Silver Cross of Honor, the first for an American Director of Music. She also led the Band & Chorus in historic performances in Moscow’s Red Square, for Her Majesty the Queen in London, and in first-ever combined concerts with the National Serbian Defense orchestra.

Michael Kocour

Michael Kocour is a jazz pianist, a Hammond B3 organist and composer. He also serves as Director of Jazz Studies in the School of Music at Arizona State University.

An active performer for more than three decades, Kocour has appeared at venues around the world and has been a guest on Marian McPartland's internationally syndicated NPR program "Piano Jazz." Among the many artists and ensembles with whom he has appeared with are Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Lovano, Eddie Harris, James Moody, Eddie Daniels, Randy Brecker, Benny Golson, Ira Sullivan, Carl Fontana, Dewey Redman, Lew Tabackin, and the Chicago Symphony.

His recorded work as a studio musician includes soundtracks to two major motion pictures, and numerous television commercials. Kocour has also released five critically acclaimed CDs as a leader.

Alfred Music has published Kocour’s original compositions and arrangements for piano. His arrangements for jazz ensembles are available at ejazzlines.com.

“Michael Kocour, a brilliant pianist and composer. He plays with remarkable creativity and a technique to die for. Sparkling ideas fly from his fingers making harmonic sophistication the order of the day.” - Marian McPartland, November, 2007

Mark Wood

Mark Wood hails from Gainesville, Florida where he received an undergraduate degree in Music Education from the University of Florida. He studied trumpet with Dr. Joyce Davis. He began graduate studies at the University of Kentucky where he studied trumpet performance with Vince DiMartino and concluded at Northern Illinois where he studied performance with Ron Modell and served as a Teaching Assistant, playing lead trumpet in the top jazz band and directing the second band.
In 1995, he joined US Army Field Band in Washington, D.C., where he shared solo cornet responsibilities and was a founding member of the Embassy Brass, which became the official brass quintet for the US Army Field Band. Embassy Brass performed hundreds of recitals at colleges and universities throughout the US, often providing clinics and chamber ensemble coaching.
In 2000, he transferred to the US Army Band “Pershing’s Own” Ceremonial Band. His duties there included performing in the Brass Band, the Herald Trumpets, the Brass Quintet and he began substituting in the US Army Blues, the official Jazz Ensemble of The Army Band. He was later selected as split-lead trumpet in the Army Blues, a position he held until his recent retirement in May 2021 after 26 years of active service in the US Army.
He has been an active freelance performer with the Harrisburg Symphony Pops, Richmond Symphony Pops, National Symphony Pops and Baltimore Symphony Pops. These playing opportunities and many others allowed him to share the stage with jazz legends like Doc Severinson, Slide Hampton, Peter Erskine, Jon Faddis, Wycliffe Gordon, Sean Jones, Terrell Stafford, Conrad Herwig, Manhattan Transfer and countless others.

Michael Brothers

Michael Brothers is Director of Jazz and Percussion Studies at Southeastern Louisiana University. He teaches Applied Percussion to undergraduate and graduate percussion majors, and courses in Percussion Methods, Percussion Pedagogy, Jazz History and Jazz Pedagogy. He is Director of the University Jazz Ensemble, the University Percussion Ensemble and the Spirit of the Southland Drumline.

A native of Oakland, California, his forty-plus year career as a drummer and percussionist spans a wide range of musical experience including performances with big bands, symphony orchestras, recording sessions and Broadway, including over 6,600 performances of the record-breaking Music Box Company tour of the Broadway musical The Phantom of the Opera, the longest continually running Broadway tour in history.

Prior to his tenure at Phantom, he was the drummer or percussionist on several first national tours including City of Angels, Bye Bye Birdie (with Tommy Tune and
Ann Reinking), Starlight Express, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber in Concert (with Sarah Brightman), Les Misérables and Me and My Girl.

His extensive credits include performances with some of the world’s legendary entertainers such as Victor Borge, Peter Cetera, Dee Daniels, Christine Ebersole, Mitzi Gaynor, Marvin Hamlisch, Rupert Holmes, Robert Klein, Rachel Bay Jones, Gladys Knight, Liberace, Steve Lippia, The Marvalettes, Maureen McGovern,
Darmon Meader, Anthony Newley, Patti Page, Chita Rivera, Dinah Shore,
John Lloyd Young, and Mary Wells.

His albums Reunion and Three Times Two have received extensive airplay throughout the United States, Australia, Canada, France, The Netherlands and United Kingdom.

Michael is a Voting Member of The Recording Academy (GRAMMY® Awards) and Vic Firth artist. He holds degrees in Percussion Performance from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL (MM) and Loyola University New Orleans (BM).

Margaret Banton

Margaret Banton has performed as a freelance and military musician and clinician in the Atlanta area for over 30 years, where she first served as saxophonist and vocalist with the Army Ground Forces Band, Ft. McPherson, Georgia. In 2013, Margaret retired from the Air National Guard Band of the South, Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, where she performed as saxophonist and vocalist, and served as the band’s senior enlisted leader. Equally versatile in classical, jazz, and R&B genres, Margaret performs with several large and small ensembles in and around the Atlanta metro area, to include performing as saxophonist with the Atlanta Wind Symphony, principal saxophonist and jazz band leader with the Tara Winds, and saxophonist and vocalist with the Carollton Jazz Orchestra. She also performs with several tribute bands (Bob Seger and Neil Diamond) that tour throughout the U.S.

Margaret performed with the Minnesota Vikings Band for five years and was a recipient of a McDonalds All-American Jazz Ensemble scholarship. She pursued jazz studies at the University of Minnesota, has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Business/Industry from St. Catherine University and a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Central Michigan University. Outside of music, Margaret has a full-time career as a Senior Human Capital Management Advisor with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta and is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). She is an avid swimmer and jazz and R&B music fanatic, and resides in Marietta, Georgia.

Hans Sturm
Double Bassist

Double bassist Hans Sturm has performed as soloist, chamber, orchestral, jazz and improvisational musician throughout Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and the United States. Sturm received his doctorate from Northwestern University and, prior to his appointment to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was Professor of Double Bass and Jazz Studies and Coordinator of the String Department at Ball State University for seventeen years, now Professor Emeritus.

Sturm has appeared with a variety of artists across the spectrum of jazz music including Eddie Daniels, Phil Woods, Randy Brecker, Dick Hyman, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Eddie Higgins, David Baker, Stanley Jordan, Peter Erskine, Joe LaBarbera, Alan Dawson, Bela Fleck, Howard Levy and many others. A frequent performer of chamber music, Sturm has toured with 'Fireflight' (soprano, Japanese koto and bass koto, double bass, and percussion) and 'Trinkle Brass Works Trio' (trumpet, marimba and double bass) for more than twenty years. He has worked in the electronic medium with composers such as Cleveland Scott and Joan Wildman. As an orchestral bassist, he has served as principal bassist of numerous regional orchestras including the Lincoln Symphony, Muncie Symphony, Quad Cities Symphony, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Madison Symphony, Dubuque Symphony, Dorian Opera, Rockford Symphony, Racine Symphony and toured Europe as a member of the American Sinfonietta Chamber Orchestra.

Highlights of Sturm's festival appearances include the Beijing International Chamber Music Festival; the Faneza International Chamber Music Festival in various cities in Emilia Romagna, Italy; the Scottish Bass Trust's International Convention and the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh Scotland; the College Music Society International Conference in Kyoto, Japan; Encontro de instrumentistas in Joao Pessoa and Belo Horizonte, Brazil; the Biennial International Symposium on Arts and Technology in New London, Connecticut; a State Department tour of Morocco; BASS2008 Paris Conservatoire, BASS2010 at the Universitat der Kunst in Berlin, BASS2012 in the Royal Opera House, Copenhagen, and BASS2018 at the Boccherini Conservatory in Lucca, Italy; International Society of Bassists Conventions in eight states; and jazz festivals and clubs throughout the U.S. including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Atlanta.

He has served as Jury Chair for the American String Teacher's Association Double Bass Solo Competition and the International Society of Bassists Jazz 

Darren Kramer

Darren Kramer is an Electric Trombone DJ, XO Brass Artist, and Ableton Certified Trainer creating live remixes via live looping with audio effects, horn samples, and virtual synths. Kramer has been a professional freelance musician and educator for over three decades and has toured the world as trombonist with diverse acts Rob Thomas/Matchbox Twenty (Pop/Rock), Tom Jones (R&B/Soul), The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (Swing Big Band Jazz), and Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies (Swing Big Band Broadway Show).

He founded his own music company in 1994 — DKO The Darren Kramer Organization — and has produced 6 original CDs and composed/arranged 400+ songs, including many for prominent artists such as Michael Brecker & Jerry Hey which are featured on his recent “Best of DKO” 25th Anniversary CD. Kramer’s latest success expands his innovative DJ DKO Ableton Set with a LIVE 4pc Electrified Live Looping Brass Section called ElektroHornz — An Ultramodern Luxury Entertainment Experience featuring a 21st-Century Electric Horn Section with EWI, EVI & ET!

Darren’s current educational focus is his Sonic Tonic Academy Online Courses — a convenient, affordable and modern way to learn trombone, horn arranging, jazz, music technology, and even health/wellness. Moreover, as a way of giving back by creating and sharing valuable free content for everyone, his popular Music & Wellness Podcast “Sonic Tonic Experience” features a monthly music collaboration & video interview with world-class musicians.

Kramer’s mission is simple, yet profound — To inspire people around the world to create music and promote wellness so we can all become a fundamental ingredient in the global recipe to heal the planet.