Best Jazz Educator/Advocate

Composer and saxophonist Ryan Middagh has successfully combined multiple phases of jazz activity the past several years. He’s been a busy educator as the director of jazz studies at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music while also serving as an assistant professor and a member of the affiliate faculty for the school’s Center for Latin American Studies. He recruited a host of top local jazz musicians as faculty at Blair, while installing the Nashville Jazz Composers Collective as Blair’s jazz ensemble in residence. Under Middagh’s direction, the Blair Big Band released its first studio LP Such Sweet Thunder in 2018, spotlighting faculty members and a wealth of guests like the legendary Beegie Adair. As a composer and bandleader, Middagh balances being a prolific arranger — who’s provided material for everyone from Victor Wooten and Wycliffe Gordon to the Nashville Jazz Orchestra — with heading small combos and his own Ryan Middagh Jazz Orchestra. No one better exemplifies being both a hardworking proponent of the music and a tireless advocate for it. RON WYNN

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