Chris Bruya has been involved in jazz education for more than 30 years, teaching high school, community college and university. In his current position as Director of Jazz Activities at Central Washington University, he has pioneered a hybrid improvisation sequence that develops a student’s ear and inner voice, has developed the small group program in both traditional and creative genres (appearance at 2013 JEN Conference, Atlanta, GA), and his big band has been recognized as one of the finest in the country, performing at the Montreux, North Sea and the 2008 Next Generation (Monterey) jazz festivals, at the 2012 JEN Conference in Kentucky. In March 2015 the band placed first at the Next Generation Festival, which included a performance at the 2015 Monterey Jazz Festival. In April 2015 jazz organist Barney McClure released his Origin Records CD Show Me! featuring the CWU Jazz Band as the backing ensemble, garnering a 5-star review on allaboutjazz.com. Another CD by the band, the 2008 Seabreeze Records release In A Mellow Tone was cited by Jazz Times critic Scott Yanow as “consistently impressive and well worth hearing”. There are over 120 live-recorded youtube videos of the band which have been cited by many as some of the most well-recorded and performed examples of the big band literature. Bruya has served on the Oregon and Washington state music educator boards, was an IAJE president of both Washington State and Oregon, and has organized state and Northwest jazz ensembles numerous times. Chris’ presentations at state and Northwest conferences have brought numerous accolades and he is in demand as a clinician and adjudicator throughout the Northwest and beyond. In 2016 WMEA honored him with the Collegiate Educator of the Year award, and he has recently become an Educational Clinician for the Conn-Selmer Corporation.
CWU Jazz I
The premiere large instrumental jazz ensemble at CWU, this group focuses the great arrangers and writers of the idiom, both old and new. Since the arrival of director Chris Bruya in fall 2002, the band has appeared with numerous guest artists, including Bob McChesney, Don Shelton, Gary Hobbs, Charley Davis, Dave Pietro, Tom Varner, Tom Peterson, Ira Nepus, Ed Shaunessy, Bruce Babad, Ingrid Jensen, Jon Wikan, Nancy King, Terell Stafford, Wycliffe Gordon, Dick Oatts, Bobby Shew, Brian Lynch, and more. The CWU Jazz Band 1 boasts many prominent alumni, including Gary Hobbs, formerly of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Bruce Babad, currently with Bill Holman’s Band, and Jon Wikan, currently with Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society.
The band has performed at the North Sea and Montreux jazz festivals, numerous WMEA, NAfME and WIBC conferences, and the Jazz Education Network (JEN) conferences (2012 & 2019). In 2008 and 2015 the band was one of six invited as a finalist to perform at the Monterey Next Generation Festival, winning the Collegiate Division in 2015, which included an appearance at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival that same year. In 2008 the band released their first commercial CD, In A Mellow Tone on Sea Breeze Records. Their latest release (2015) on OA2 records is the CD Show Me (5-star review on allaboutjazz.com), with the band backing the great B-3 organist Barney McClure, with charts by Phil Kelly.
The band is one of three in the department, which are part of a larger jazz program that also includes two vocal jazz ensembles, numerous combos, and a jazz improvisation sequence, and jazz arranging, composition and pedagogy courses.