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Ashley Daneman | Courtesy

With 40 stu­dents now par­tic­i­pating in its jazz program, the music department hired a new trombone pro­fessor and vocal instructor this semester. 

“The program con­tinues to grow and get better,” Director of Jazz Ensembles Chris McCourry said.

The music department is allo­cating more time and resources to the jazz program. McCourry said he is con­fident this growth will con­tinue with the help of Rob Killips, who was hired after the pre­vious trombone pro­fessor retired, and Ashley Daneman, who is expanding the vocal jazz field.

McCourry said he is eager to bring in Daneman, who has per­formed in various genres from opera to jazz to musical theatre. Daneman will train voice stu­dents in jazz and con­tem­porary singing. 

“I’m very inter­ested in helping stu­dents to dis­cover their own potential and uncover musical strengths they have,” Daneman said. 

Last year, the jazz department brought an outside teacher three times a semester to work with stu­dents. Now, Daneman will teach stu­dents at least once a week.

Daneman started playing piano at age 6 and singing at age 10. After studying clas­sical music and opera at the Cincinnati Con­ser­vatory of Music, she decided to pick up jazz for fun. Although much of her early expe­rience in jazz was self-taught, she attended the Man­hattan School of Music, where she had the oppor­tunity to perform throughout New York City. 

This moti­vated her to become a song­writer, and she recently began a Kick­starter project for her new album, which was fea­tured in Downbeat Mag­azine. 

Killips, on the other hand, will be teaching trombone lessons in addition to leading trombone choir and a jazz combo.

McCourry, who has per­formed with Killips a couple of times, said he is excited to have him teaching because of his diverse expe­rience on the trombone, both in edu­cation and per­for­mance. Joining the faculty jazz band the Hillcats this spring, Killips will expand the group from a quintet to a sextet. Killips com­pleted a master’s degree in jazz trombone at Central Michigan Uni­versity, where he leads one of the big band jazz groups. 

At Hillsdale, even though many stu­dents are not music majors, Killips said he sees an excitement for studying music. 

“I find it extremely pos­itive that there is such an interest in music for its own sake,” Killips said. “I am very impressed with the number of stu­dents at Hillsdale that are involved in music, simply because they see the value of it, even if it is not the career path they choose.” 

When he was in his twenties, Killips worked as a musical director on a cruise ship. Later, he toured the world playing in a salsa band. He spent eight years in London per­forming live and recording for TV and radio in many genres including jazz, rock, Latin, and clas­sical. Killips has also toured with various big-name acts such as Aretha Franklin, The Temp­ta­tions, and Arturo San­doval. 

“I am really looking forward to starting work with all of my stu­dents,” Killips said. “I am sure it will be a good learning expe­rience for everyone, including myself.”