A Rochester native, Assistant Professor Mike Van Allen has taught Jazz Studies at Roberts Wesleyan College since 2003, where he teaches courses in jazz theory/improvisation and history, private lessons, and directs the Jazz Combo and Jazz Ensemble.
Professor Van Allen earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music at Binghamton University in 1996, studying under jazz director Al Hamme, and received the Master’s degree in Jazz Piano Performance at New York University in 1999. His principal teacher at NYU was Grammy-winning arranger and composer Jim McNeely, pianist for the world-renowned Village Vanguard Orchestra. Other teachers with whom he worked at NYU include such jazz greats as pianists Mike Holober, Don Friedman, Ted Rosenthal, Michael Weiss, and Pete Malinverni; bassists Ron McClure and Mike Richmond; and saxophonists Ralph LaLamma and Jon Gunther.
After completing his graduate studies, Professor Van Allen spent a year performing on a cruise ship for Celebrity Cruises. Upon returning to NYC, he formed his own jazz quintet which recorded an album in 2001 and performed live on Rochester’s jazz radio station, WXXI 90.1FM. During this time, Professor Van Allen also began directing and arranging for a cappella groups, winning national awards for Best Arrangement of a Song in 2002, including runner-up for Best Collegiate Arranged Album in 1999, the Binghamton Crosbys’ Super Bo’s. Currently, Mike performs with Johnny Matt, the Mark Cassara Band, Fishbone Soup, and is the music director for RNB Classics Live, an 18 piece group that performs the music of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder note for note in a live setting. He has also recently recorded a CD with Al Chez, trumpeter for David Letterman’s Tonight Show.
Professor Van Allen’s students have gone on to pursue graduate degrees in jazz at New York University, Eastman School of Music, University of Miami, and Oberlin Conservatory.