The Excellence in Creative Activity Award, established in 1999, is given to a faculty member who has established an exemplary record of creative activity that has brought recognition to the University. Creative activity can include work in musical compositions, visual arts, choreography, writing, and performance. Full-time faculty who have been at WSU for three years are eligible.
Geoffrey Deibel, Assistant Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies, School of Music, College of Fine Arts
Geoffrey Deibel received the Bachelor of Arts in history and the Bachelor of Music in saxophone performance in 2002 and the Master of Music in saxophone performance in 2004 from Northwestern University. He earned the Doctorate of Musical Arts in saxophone performance from Michigan State University in 2010. He joined the School of Music faculty in 2012.
On a recent morning, Geoffrey Deibel took a break from his first run at rehearsing a piece he'll perform in Cyprus — a gig that will mean he'll miss picking up his Excellence in Creative Teaching award at Wichita State— to talk about building up the university's saxophone studio program; touring, rehearsing and recording with a highly successful sax quartet over the past decade, and recently sharing a stage in New York City with 100 sheep.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Deibel, about being asked to be part of a large cast of musicians, dancers, singers and yes, sheep, who had been assembled to do a weeklong run of a grandiose staging of Louis Andriessen's eclectic opera production “De Materie.” It was performed in the block-long Drill Hall of the Park Avenue Armory and received a favorable review in the New York Times.
He also couldn't pass up the invitation to join the Athens Sax Quartet, one of the finest chamber music ensembles based in Greece, for its May concert in Cyprus.
Part of the reason invitations keep coming is because Deibel has built a reputation as a creative musician and clinician on the cutting edge of of chamber music and a top saxophonist of our generation, said Jonathan Nichol, assistant professor of saxophone at The University of Oklahoma. Nichol has known Deibel for more than 10 years and performs with him in the h2 Quartet, a critically acclaimed chamber ensemble created by Deibel, Nichol and two other saxophonists who had met as undergraduate students.
The quartet has served as a major vehicle for Deibel's creative activities, with extensive national and international tours and four published CDs. In 2007, the quartet won the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, considered the nation's preeminent and most prestigious chamber music competition.
It was during one of h2's international tours in 2012 that Deibel interviewed for his position on the WSU faculty, retreating to the basement of a hotel in Belgrade to get internet service for the interview.
With a performance-heavy schedule, one might think Deibel doesn't have time left for much else, but remarkably he does. Most of his creative energy in the past three years, Deibel said, has been spent expanding and building a quality sax studio program at WSU.
His efforts are paying off. The program has tripled to 12 majors under his direction, and will increase to 18 by this fall. By touring and being a guest lecturer and clinician at other universities and high schools, Deibel helps build the program's reputation. He also conducts the WSU's Jazz Arts Ensemble, which according to Joseph Lulloff, a distinguished professor at Michigan State University, “swings hard.”
This summer, Deibel's will do final edits to h2's fifth CD and once again teach for two weeks at Cortona Sessions for New Music in Italy. The annual program has become a destination for emerging composers and performers to collaborate, learn, grow and create, according to the program's website. The h2 Quartet is a resident ensemble at the program, where it has presented 15 performances and premiered 22 new compositions for saxophone.