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Kurt Ellenberger
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Kurt Ellenberger is a jazz pianist and composer whose work includes music for a wide range of ensembles. His writings include a jazz theory book and other pedagogical writings, as well as many essays that appear in his arts blog "Also Sprach FraKathustra" which was a semi-finalist in Carnegie Hall's "Great Arts Blogger" competition.

He has recorded on Innova Recordings, Ghostly International, Challenge-A Records (Netherlands) and others, and has been hailed as "a gifted pianist who combines the lyricism of Bill Evans with the energy of Keith Jarrett." He is a member of the Grand Valley New Music Ensemble whose recent recordings of Terry Riley’s “IN C: Remixed” and Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians” have been featured in the New York Times and the New Yorker as well as in many of the nation’s leading publications.

He is also a founding member of Ütaké, a unique trio performing improvisatory music featuring the shakuhachi flute. Ellenberger is a faculty member in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University where he has been teaching since 1999.

He is currently working on music for a suite of iPod/iPad games when not tending to his chickens or playing backgammon for fun and profit.

Entries by Kurt Ellenberger

Tuition in Wonderland: Higher Education Funding in Europe and the United States

(2) Comments | Posted March 28, 2016 | 7:11 PM


College tuition and student loans have been in the news a great deal in recent years, largely because of the alarming amount of student debt in the United States. Currently, student debt is more than $1.2 Trillion dollars, higher than...

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Hero: Thoughts on the Music and Career of David Bowie

(9) Comments | Posted February 8, 2016 | 3:33 PM

I was truly shocked and saddened by the news of David Bowie's passing. I had an immediate flashback to the 10th grade, Mr. Ogorman's French class at Riverside High School in Windsor, Ontario, where I had a classmate named Morvan, who I didn't know at all (in fact, I doubt...

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Ted Gioia's Bar Talk: Can a Musicologist Make Club Owners Pay More?

(0) Comments | Posted April 29, 2015 | 11:35 AM


Ted Gioia's recent article entitled "Can Club Owners Make Musicians Play for Free?" is, like many of his other posts, quickly going viral on social media with the jazz community. The premise is tailor-made for the times -- evil bar owners (corporate...

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And She's Buying a Lawsuit to Heaven

(6) Comments | Posted February 20, 2015 | 8:16 AM

The Song (or at least the bass line) remains the same. Another second-tier band wants a piece of the first-tier pie, and thus, the battle for ownership of one of the most iconic songs from the classic rock era, Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" is heating up....

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Ghost of a Chance: A New Paradigm for Pop Music Success?

(0) Comments | Posted January 9, 2014 | 11:16 AM

I've been in Europe since early August as a Fulbright Scholar. Most of that time has been in the beautiful city of Graz, which is in southeast Austria. I am teaching a course at the Jazz Institute at the Kunstuniversität Graz (Graz University of the Arts). As...

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Beggars' Banquet: New Music Schemes for New Music Dreams

(0) Comments | Posted October 16, 2013 | 11:59 AM

Over the last decade, we've heard a lot about new marketing and funding strategies for music and musicians that were emerging in the age of near ubiquitous internet access. Streaming music and video, Youtube, email lists, artist/group websites and blogs, fanzines, Facebook, digital and hardcopy sales, self-publishing, on-demand publishing and...

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Ghost Story: Something Wicked This Way Comes?

(0) Comments | Posted May 28, 2013 | 5:12 PM


As a jazz musician and composer who grew up in the "classic rock" era, I found myself more attracted to those groups that were working with longer forms, complicated or unpredictable harmonies, meters, and rhythms, and strong musicianship; in other words, I...

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Bureacracy Ad NAuSeuM: Is the Unaccredited Life Worth Living?

(1) Comments | Posted May 8, 2013 | 2:17 PM

The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) is an organization that assesses and accredits music schools and music departments across the United States. Towards that end, NASM develops and articulates general curriculum guidelines for music programs in higher education. Music departments must then adhere to these guidelines...

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Tiny Bubbles: A Growth Industry for Jazz?

(2) Comments | Posted April 26, 2013 | 11:52 AM

With all of the discussions regarding the sad state of jazz careers, it would be surprising indeed to find that jazz has experienced a significant growth spurt in recent years, but it has. Unfortunately, that growth has not occurred in the clubs, concert halls, or other venues...

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TAZER UP! Jack Hues from Wang Chung on Music, the '80s & Their New Recording

(0) Comments | Posted February 17, 2013 | 1:58 PM

Wang Chung was one of the most successful groups of the 1980s, and they recently released Tazer Up!, their first new full-length recording in over twenty years. What follows is an interview with Wang Chung's Jack Hues (guitarist, composer and lead...

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Bill Ryan on Music, Teaching, and BillBand's New Recording: Towards Daybreak

(1) Comments | Posted February 4, 2013 | 9:05 AM

Bill Ryan in rehearsal with BillBand

In preparation for a Multiple Choice Quiz, read the following press references received by a "mystery" ensemble:

  • Top 10 New Music Release of 2009

  • Soundcheck CD Pick of the Week

  • Winner,...

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Red Pill, Blue Pill: Professor Asia's Cardinal Sin

(1) Comments | Posted January 23, 2013 | 12:05 PM


Recently, Daniel Asia, a composer with an impeccable pedigree who heads the composition department at the University of Arizona, posted on the Huffington Post Arts&Culture blog and it appeared to go viral in certain segments of the music...

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Bite the Band that Feeds You: Justice for Jazz Artists

(1) Comments | Posted January 21, 2013 | 8:46 AM


I've been watching the development of the Justice for Jazz Artists (J4JA) movement for a couple of years now. If you haven't heard of this organization, here's their mission statement from their website:

Jazz is an esteemed American art form, inspiring...
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The Contraction Continues: The Looming Arts Crisis in Higher Education

(9) Comments | Posted August 28, 2012 | 2:33 PM

Paul Resnikoff posted this sobering graph at Digital Music News that shows US Department of Labor/Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) statistics from 1999-2011 on music sales and music employment. Needless to say, the picture is not pretty. It seems that despite the RIAA's...

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Golden Age or Gilded Cage?

(19) Comments | Posted June 4, 2012 | 3:13 PM


"Invariably, the term Golden Age is bestowed retroactively, when the period in question has ended and is compared with what followed in the specific field discussed."

"A Golden Age is often followed by a decline, where new cultural products...

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The Muse That Roars

(0) Comments | Posted May 23, 2012 | 8:26 PM

Q: We live in an aggressively visual age; images dominate the popular culture. But which art form has the most to say about contemporary culture, and why?

(This is a revised version of a submission to Carnegie's Spring For Music blogger competition.)

Let's consider music from a psychological perspective for a moment:...

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What Happened to the Generation Gap?

(84) Comments | Posted May 16, 2012 | 7:31 PM

One of my nieces, a precocious, bright, and interesting teenager visited recently. In the course of conversation at dinner one night, I made a joke using a quote from a Michael Jackson tune, and I was surprised that she got the joke and knew the reference. She then said how...

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The Cultural Capital of Everywhere

(7) Comments | Posted May 15, 2012 | 8:25 AM

Q: New York has long been considered the cultural capital of America. Is it still? If not, where?
(This was my first submission to Carnegie's Spring For Music blogger competition. With the recent post by Priscilla Frank regarding New York's cultural relevancy, it seemed to be a...

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NoJazzFest for Old Men

(48) Comments | Posted May 8, 2012 | 6:43 PM


Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, Foo Fighters, Florence and the Machine, Bonnie Rait, Ziggy Marley, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Cee-Lo,and Ne-Yo. Where did all of these artists perform? Exactly -- at the New Orleans Jazz Festival! (Which, strangely enough, also enjoyed its...

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier. Why?

(6) Comments | Posted May 4, 2012 | 8:21 AM


Q: Many countries have ministries of culture. Does America need a Secretary of Culture or Secretary of the Arts? Why or why not?

(This is a revised version of a submission for Carnegie's Spring For Music Blogger Contest.)

While the government...

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