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Press Release

Bassist Marcus Shelby to be Featured at Spring Jazz Concert on May 17 at Cal Poly

Bay Area bassist, bandleader, composer and educator Marcus Shelby plays bass in front of a white brick wall

Contact: Michele Abba

Bay Area recording artist, bandleader, composer and educator is a Cal Poly jazz alumnus

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Marcus Shelby, notable Bay Area bassist, bandleader, composer and educator, will be the featured guest of the Cal Poly Jazz Ensembles for the Spring Jazz Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, in the Performing Arts Center.

Shelby, who was also a member of the University Jazz Band (UJB) from 1988-89, will direct the band and play bass in a set of his original compositions and arrangements. He is artistic director of Healdsburg Jazz, an artist in residence with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, and a past resident artist with the San Francisco Jazz Festival and the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. His work focuses on African American lives in social movements and music education.

Shelby received the Charles Mingus Scholarship in 1990 to attend Cal Arts and study composition with James Newton and bass with Charlie Haden. Shelby has composed several oratorios and suites including “Harriet Tubman,” “Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio,” “Black Ball: The Negro Leagues and the Blues,” “Green and Blues,” and “Harriet’s Spirit,” a children’s opera.

He composed the score and performed in Anna Deavere Smith’s off-Broadway play and HBO feature film “Notes from the Field” (2019), and voiced Ray Gardener, the father of the movie’s protagonist, Joe, in Pixar’s 2020 Academy Award-winning animated film “Soul.” Shelby has also collaborated on author and feminist political activist Angela Davis’ “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism” (2019), choreographer Joanna Haigood’s “Dying While Black and Brown” (2014), and actor, playwright and educator Margo Hall’s “Bebop Baby” (2013) and “Sonny’s Blues” (2008).

Shelby has served on the San Francisco Arts Commission since 2013 and has worked with the Equal Justice Society for more than 20 years. The Marcus Shelby Orchestra has released five albums: “The Lights Suite,” “Port Chicagom,” “Harriet Tubman,” “Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” and “Transitions.”

Music faculty member Dave Becker will direct the UJB for other pieces, including some by its lead alto saxophonist Wyatt Willard (physics and music) of San Marcos, California. Willard’s composition “Cascade,” which was premiered by the band in February, will be published by C. Alan Publications.

“I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the Cal Poly jazz program since my first year,” Willard said. “Having been a member of all the jazz ensembles, each is a great environment for improving as a musician as well as making long-lasting meaningful friendships with students across majors and years. I’m forever indebted to the jazz program for giving me one of the most rewarding experiences on campus and the greatest group of friends you could ask for.”

The Jazz Combos, directed by Dylan Johnson, and Vocal Jazz Ensemble, directed by Inga Swearingen, will present a variety of both classic and modern works, plus student compositions and arrangements.

Tickets to the concert are $15 and 20 for the public, and $10 for students and San Luis Obispo Jazz Federation members. Event parking is sponsored by the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available at the Cal Poly Ticket Office between noon and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To order by phone, call 805-SLO-4TIX (805-756-4849).

The event is sponsored by Cal Poly’s Music Department, College of Liberal Arts and Instructionally Related Activities program.

For more information, visit the Music Department’s calendar website, email or call 805-756-2406.