UTA Faculty, Students, Alumni Featured on New Patti LaBelle Album

Legendary entertainer Patti LaBelle’s new album is a perfect mix of holiday cheer and UTA Maverick spirit.

More than a dozen faculty members, students and alumni from The University of Texas at Arlington are featured on “Patti LaBelle and Friends – Home for the Holidays.”

Jamar Jones, a lecturer of music industry studies at UTA and an alumnus, produced the 14-song album and appears as a pianist on one of the tracks. An acclaimed jazz musician, composer and arranger, Jones has produced a previous album for LaBelle. “Bel Homage,” released in March 2017, was the Grammy-winning artist’s first record in almost a decade.

When LaBelle approached Jones about “Home for the Holidays,” he immediately knew he would involve UTA’s faculty and students.

“Patti and I wanted to create an album full of great moments and I brought in the right people to help us achieve that,” Jones explained.

Nine members of UTA’s RISE a capella co-ed student group are featured on “Christmas Time is Here.”

Dan Cavanagh, director of UTA’s music industry studies program and an associate professor of music, arranged “My Favorite Things,” “Let it Snow,” “The Christmas Song,” “Mary, Did You Know?” and “Brazilian Sleigh Bells.” Jones is featured on “My Favorite Things” and “Brazilian Sleigh Bells.”

Cavanagh leads the American Jazz Composers Orchestra, a performance group based in Arlington with a large number of UTA faculty and alumni as members.

The songs arranged by Cavanagh also feature Tim Ishii, professor of music; Mike Morrison, adjunct professor of saxophone; and Chris Milyo, a master’s student in jazz studies, on saxophone. Joaquim Toftgard, adjunct professor of trombone and UTA alumnus Mark Thomas are on trombone and UTA alumnus Ken Edwards is on trumpet.

“Our students, alumni and faculty being showcased in this way absolutely shows the power of academia and our ability to cultivate a pipeline of talent,” Cavanagh said.  “What a great way to show the world what you get when you come to UTA.”

Cavanagh and Jones said this opportunity elevates the already strong music industry studies program in UTA’s College of Liberal Arts. Several students who were not directly involved in the production were invited to observe the recording sessions.

“For students to see the professional pace and environment gives them real insight into the industry,” Cavanagh said. “It is quite different than me lecturing about it in an academic setting.”

Members of RISE a cappella recorded their vocals on the UTA campus. The horns were recorded at a church in Irving.

“Clearly the talents and expertise of our faculty, staff, alumni and students is remarkable. Even a legend like Patti LaBelle has noticed,” College of Liberal Arts Dean Elisabeth Cawthon said.

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