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Theatre & Music

Fond Farewell Chris Madsen

After eight years of service to the School of Theatre and Music at UIC, saxophonist, composer, and educator Chris Madsen, will depart our community in January to become the next director of jazz studies at Loyola University. Madsen graduated from DePaul University in 2003 with a Bachelor’s in Jazz Studies; he attended the Juilliard School’s Jazz Program in New York City, living and performing there for three years with such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Bobby Short, and Barbara Lea, and earned a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Since moving back to Chicago in 2006, Madsen has established himself as a highly sought-after performer, gigging with his own and other groups including the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Ron Perrillo quartet, and the Rob Parton, Tom Matta, Mulligan Mosaics, and Joe Clark big bands. At UIC, Madsen led the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz combos, taught Jazz saxophone lessons, and courses in Jazz history and arranging.  

UIC Director of Jazz Studies Michael Stryker shares, "I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Chris since I came to UIC in 2018. He is a high-level jazz saxophonist and educator. He is also my friend. We’ve played many an engagement together in the past 4 + years. I am truly excited that he has the chance to run the jazz program at Loyola University. It’s a logical outgrowth of his completing the D.M.A. at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. He will be missed.”  

Madsen has released four albums under his name and been involved with countless other recording projects. He is a published composer with Kendor Music Inc, Walrus Music, and the UNC Jazz Press and is an in-demand clinician for jazz groups of all ages.  

We wish Professor Madsen the very best as he takes on this new administrative role and next step in his career and thank him for his years of service to the School of Theatre and Music at UIC. 

The UIC School of Theatre and Music has begun a

With great anticipation, we are excited to welcome to our Jazz faculty, Professor Jon Irabagon, who will teach Jazz saxophone, direct combos, and courses in Jazz history. 

“It seems like change is the only constant in life. Chris Madsen’s departure has resulted in bringing Filipino-American saxophonist, composer, and founder of Irabbagast records Jon Irabagon to the UIC Jazz Program and School of Theatre and Music. He moved back to the Chicago area from NYC with his family in 2021. I am thrilled to have him join UIC’s School of Theatre and Music family and jazz faculty beginning with the Spring semester of the 2022-2023 academic year,” continued Michael Stryker. 

After earning a Bachelor of Music from DePaul University, Irabagon continued his education by earning a Master of Arts from the Manhattan School of Music and completing post-graduate studies in the jazz program at Juilliard, where he received an Artist Diploma. However, Irabagon’s accomplishments do not end with his education. Irabagon was also the winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition, winner of the Rising Star award in Downbeat Magazine for both alto and tenor saxophones, and the recipient of a Philippine Presidential Award, the highest civilian honor an overseas Filipino can receive in commemoration for their contributions to the perception of Filipinos worldwide.  

As a member of a minority community who fights against the countless times his voice has been marginalized, Irabagon's compositions rely on open dialogues with his fellow performers to create a gateway for communication and understanding. This interaction of notated material and strong improvisatory character is essential to Irabagon's musical vision. As music reporter Nate Chinen notes in his Top Performances of 2015 article, Irabagon's compositions “are drawn to the play of opposing forces, especially those involving abstraction of form.”  

Named one of New York City's 25 Jazz Icons by Time Out New York, Irabagon composes for his ensemble Outright!, which received a 5-star Masterpiece review in Downbeat Magazine for Unhinged (2014), as well as the Jon Irabagon Trio, featuring Barry Altschul and Mark Helias, and his new quartet with Matt Mitchell, Chris Lightcap and Dan Weiss. Irabagon has been an integral part of ensembles such as the Dave Douglas Quintet, the Mary Halvorson Quintet, Septet and Octet, Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor, Ralph Alessi's This Against That, Mostly Other People do the Killing and Uri Caine's Catbird. Irabagon has been an ensemble and private lesson instructor for all levels at several institutions in the New York City area, including with Jazz at Lincoln Center's Middle School Jazz Academy, as well as giving saxophone, improvisation, and composition masterclasses on four continents. 

Irabagon's main focus is building his own compositional voice, as evidenced by receiving grants and commissions like The Stone at National Sawdust Commissioning Series, an Artists at Albatross Reach compositional residency, the Shifting Foundation, two French American Cultural Exchange grants, a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant, a South Arts Jazz Road touring grant, and an upcoming USArtists International grant. Irabagon currently runs his own imprint, Irabbagast Records, to release his own uncategorizable works as well as other cutting-edge, creative artists. 

“As Director of the UIC Jazz Program, I feel most fortunate to work with such high-level faculty that represent the finest jazz artists and teachers, not only from the city of Chicago, but from across the country and the globe. The future is very bright!” 

Please join us in welcoming Professor Irabagon to our faculty. Learn more about our Jazz program here