UNI Jazz Studies



Chris on tenorChristopher Merz, Professor of Music, has served as Director of Jazz Studies and Director of the award-winning UNI Jazz Band One at the University of Northern Iowa since 2002. Under his direction, the band has traveled to Cuba and Thailand as well as the east coast of the US, and has recorded 15 CDs featuring many original compositions and arrangements by student and faculty writers. 

The 2006 recipient of the CHFA University Book and Supply Outstanding Teaching award, Merz was the 2016 recipient of the John L. Baker Faculty Development award, and was inducted into the Iowa Jazz Educators’ Hall of Fame in 2015. He is a Past President of Jazz Educators of Iowa (JEI), and the founder and director of the UNI Combo Camp, an annual event for high school jazz students and music educators, which takes place each June.

His recording credits include Steve McCraven, Darius Brubeck, John Rapson and Jon Snell, as well as his own projects; Counterculture, the Chris Merz/Bob Washut Duo, The X-tet, and Equilateral.  His 1997 release with the X-tet, Mystery is My Story, prompted Dave Brubeck to write, “I am very pleased with this wonderful band. Naturally I would admire a group like yours that, to me, is a grand extension of what we were doing...when we were the ‘new thing’”.  Current projects include Colossus Central (an exciting new big band led by UNI alum Michael Conrad) and the quartet, Christopher’s Very Happy. Band., which performs Merz’s originals exclusively. CVH.B.’s debut cd, We Are Bathed in Sunlight, was recently released on RealTown! Records. An accomplished composer/arranger for large jazz ensembles, Merz has received commissions from university and high school big bands throughout the country, and is published 

through UNC Jazz Press and ejazzlines.  He is also a highly sought after guest soloist, clinician and conductor at university and high school jazz festivals nationwide, and is endorsed by D’Addario and TM Custom tenor saxophones.



Robert Washut

Mike Conrad is a composer, improviser, and teacher from Bettendorf, Iowa. As a performer, he has toured China, played at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, and appeared at various jazz festivals and venues all over the United States. Conrad has enjoyed playing piano in ensembles like the Alexa Tarantino Quintet, Dave Chisholm’s Calligraphy, Christopher’s Very Happy. Band., and the Mike Conrad Trio. Equally accomplished on both trombone and piano, Conrad truly loves collaborating with other musicians, and always brings his creativity and expressiveness to every performance he gives and every composition that he writes.

Mike Conrad has been recognized for his arranging and composing with four ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards and seven DownBeat Awards, as well as awards and commissions from organizations like the Bundesjazzorchester of Germany, the West Point Jazz Knights, and the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers. Conrad’s arrangements have been performed all around the world, including a 2014 premiere at Carnegie Hall, and a performance at the US Presidential Inauguration in 2013. Some recent career highlights include his participation in the 2017 Metropole Orchestra Arrangers Workshop with Vince Mendoza, and winning 2nd Prize in the “Spheres Of A Genius” composition competition through the Vienna Radio Symphony.

From 2013 to 2015, Conrad was the Head Band Director at West High School in Waterloo, Iowa where he directed the Wind Symphony and Jazz Ensembles and taught Music Theory and Jazz Improvisation. He has also led his own large jazz ensemble called COLOSSUS and released an album of original music featuring Alex Sipiagin with his 15-piece group, the All Angles Orchestra. Conrad is in high demand as a clinician and guest director for jazz bands, and he continues to come up with fresh and exciting works for a wide variety of ensembles. Many of his compositions and arrangements are published by UNC Jazz Press, ejazzlines, and his own website, www.mconradmusic.com.

Dr. Conrad earned degrees from the University Northern Iowa (BM and BME), the Eastman School of Music (MM), and the University of Northern Colorado (DA). He is currently serving as Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies & Music Education at the University of Northern Iowa, where he directs Jazz Band Two and teaches courses/ lessons in Jazz Improvisation, Jazz Pedagogy, Jazz Methods, Jazz Theory, Jazz Piano, Jazz Composition, and Jazz Arranging.





Alex Pershounin with double bassDr. Alexander Pershounin has performed extensively throughout Europe and United States in both classical and jazz settings and has been featured as a performer and composer on such internationally recognized music events as Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Pori Jazz Festival in Finland, Europe’s Jazz Contest in Belgium, and New Orleans Jazz Fest, among many others.  His performing credits include collaboration projects and appearances with world-class artists ranging from Bob Berg, Mulgrew Miller, Conrad Herwig, and Benny Golson to Itzhac Perlman, Yo Yo Ma, and Ray Charles, to name just a few. He also has recorded several commercially released compact disc albums as a soloist and ensemble player. Dr. Pershounin holds DMA and MFA degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi, and MFA and BM degrees from Russia’s most prestigious music institution: Gnessins' State Academy of Music in Moscow. Before arriving to UNI as a bass studio and liberal arts core instructor Dr. Pershounin had taught at Columbus State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Westfield State College, University of Southern Mississippi, and various music institutions in Russia. His students won national and international competitions, were accepted in most prestigious music institutions, and successfully developed their own professional music careers.






Anthony Williams with plunger mute

Anthony Williams maintains a high volume of performing in classical, jazz, and new music settings. He has shared the stage with artists and ensembles such as Ray Charles, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Natalie Cole, Slide Hampton, Peter Erskine, Cuong Vu, Rufus Reid, Mulgrew Miller, Jeff Coffin, Clark Terry, David Sanchez, and Donald Brown. His playing can be heard on several recordings which include, albums by The Mike Waldrop Big Band The Ryan Middagh Group, Dave Lisik Jazz Orchestra, University of Memphis “Southern Comfort” Jazz Ensemble, and The University of Northern Iowa Jazz Band One playing lead trombone.

Williams joined the music faculty at the University of Northern Iowa in the fall of 2013. He has previously taught at the University of Mary, University of Memphis, and Lemoyne-Owen College. Dr. Williams earned degrees from the University of Central Arkansas (BM), University of Northern Iowa (MM), and the University of Memphis (DMA).

 Dr. Williams is a member of the International Trombone Association, National Association for Music Education, College Music Society, and the Jazz Education Network. He is a Conn/Selmer artist-clinician and plays Giddings and Webster mouthpieces exclusively.


Robert Dunn is an adjunct professor of classical and jazz guitar at the UNI School of Music. He is also a member of the UNI Suzuki School, teaching guitar. In addition, he teaches classical guitar, jazz guitar, and jazz bass at Grinnell College. Dunn received both BA and MM from UNI and has been affiliated with the school as student or teacher since 1979. He also earned a BS from Iowa State in 1976.

Dunn is an active member of the Iowa music education community, serving with the faculties of the UNI, KCCK Middle School, Independence High School, Cedar Valley Middle School, and SWCC jazz camps. He also taught at the 2014 UNI Community Music Mania Camp. Dunn is a frequent adjudicator or clinician at various jazz contests, including the Coe Jazz Summit, NEIBA, SEIBA, and Des Moines Hoover festivals.

Dunn is an active performer on jazz, classical, steel-string, twelve-string, and electric bass guitars as well as banjo, mandolin, and ukulele. He plays with Hands of Time, The Dixie Saints, The Bill Shepherd Combo, and The George Jazz Trio and has substituted on electric bass for Checker and the Blue Tones. He has performed with the Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines symphony orchestras as well as the travelling pit ensembles for Annie, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat, Copacabana, and Chicago. He plays in a classical guitar/flute duo with Wartburg College Professor of Flute Dominique Cawley. Robert and his wife Denise reside in Waterloo, IA.

Josh Hakanson - Drum set Instructor