Jazz Ambassadors
Jazz Ambassadors
In celebration of Veterans Day, the UofL School of Music is sponsoring a concert by the U.S. Army Field Band Jazz Ambassadors at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in Comstock Concert Hall. The band will include a salute to those who have served.
Jon Epley
Jon Epley

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.
A Cardinal alum will be making a homecoming to UofL’s campus to perform in the show as well. Sergeant First Class Jonathan Epley, a guitarist and member of the Jazz Ambassadors since 2011, earned his undergrad and graduate degrees from the School of Music. 

“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.

Performances offer some of the most versatile programming of any big band. Concerts include classic big band standards, instrumental and vocal solo features, patriotic favorites, contemporary jazz works and original arrangements and compositions by past and present members of 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.
Niki King
Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.