Known as America’s Big Band, the Jazz Ambassadors are the premier touring jazz orchestra of the Army. Formed in 1969, this 19-piece ensemble has received critical acclaim throughout the U.S. and abroad performing America’s original art form, jazz.
“It was great,” he said of his UofL experience. “I met my wife there, learned a lot, played with a couple of great bands and had a great time gallivanting down Bardstown Road… I’m proud to be from a smaller music program that’s maybe not as well-known as some others, but still produces high-quality students and players.”
He said Mike Tracy, director of UofL’s Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studies Program, was instrumental in bringing him to UofL. In the program, he studied guitar under Craig Wagner and arranging and composition under John LaBarbera.
Epley graduated in 2008 and spent some time in Nashville before a friend inspired him to join the Army and play in its music program. He served with the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus in Heidelberg, Germany, and performed for troops in Iraq. That tour was important, as it showed him what deployed life is like.
“Public affairs is our main mission. If there are vets in the audience I can go to talk to them and relate. That can help them decompress, as the performance can rekindle memories…it sometimes helps to talk through that.”
Epley now lives in Fort Meade, Maryland, and spends about a third of the year touring with the Jazz Ambassadors.
The Jazz Ambassadors have performed in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, Japan, India and Europe, and in joint concerts with the Boston Pops, National Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Seattle Symphony and at Carnegie Hall with Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops. Appearances at international jazz festivals in Montreux, Newport, Toronto, Brussels, and the Netherlands have been met with enthusiastic acclaim, as well as concerts in England, Wales, Luxembourg, Germany, the Czech Republic and Norway.