Jazz Ensemble founder brings memoir to NIU

By Claire Buchanan

Jazz Ensemble founder Ron Modell’s memoir features “a lot of wisdom,” according to a forward by Quincy Jones.

Modell directed the band 1969-97. His memoir, “Loved Bein’ Here With You,” will be available Saturday at the NIU Bookstore.

NS: Can you tell me about some of your favorite memories as the jazz band director at NIU?

RM: I think the highlight of my entire career was when the great Quincy Jones invited the NIU Jazz Ensemble to do a retrospective of his music in Montreux, Switzerland … . And every day of going to work with the students here at NIU was an extraordinary experience.

NS: What was your career like as a solo artist?

RM: I held the position of principal trumpet with the Tulsa Philharmonic and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. During that period of time, I also played with nightclub artists like Tony Bennett and Vic Damone … .

NS: Can you tell me about the process of writing this autobiography?

RM: What I found out is that trying to write a book is very hard. It took me six years … . It was a joy reliving all of my wonderful experiences.

NS: There is a forward in the book from Quincy Jones. What was it like to receive this message?

RM: It was an absolutely incredible thing. A man of his stature [taking] the time to write that out was absolutely fantastic. He’s involved in so many projects all over the world. I was just blown away that he took the time to do it.

NS: What message would you like readers to take from the book?

RM: If I can quote Quincy, ‘It’s a fun read. It’s an easy read. It’s a funny read, but there’s a lot of wisdom in the book.’ And I think what he tried to say was that not only was I there to teach music but to try to prepare our students for life’s trials and tribulations they will meet once they leave the university.

NS: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?

RM: The great success that the Jazz Ensemble enjoyed was largely due to the cooperation of all the different areas of the university. From the maintenance staff, the transportation department to the entire music faculty and administration, the media services … they all made it possible for all the wonderful things to occur during my tenure.