From the Airmen to the Quad Cities

One of the distinctive features about Augustana’s music department is the diverse background, not only in within the students, but the professors as well.
Joe Ott, instructor of Jazz Ensemble and Combo, is an excellent representative of that statement. Ott went into detail over where his life took him after receiving his degree in Saxophone Performance and a minor in composition/theory at Eastern Illinois University.
“After Eastern, I was auditioning for graduate schools… Graduate assistance ships were far a few between for saxophonists at the time, so I started auditioning for all the service bands. I was fortunate to have won a position with USAF band program.” said Ott.
Ott spent a grand total of 22 years with the United States Air Force Band program, most of them as music director.
“He’s very military in his approach,” describes first year Andre Rivera, “he’s very strict, but he’s also got stories of his own that he shares like when he was touring overseas…  I think this is the best trumpet section I’ve ever been a part of.”
Before the playing for the USAF, he had toured the country with the legendary Jazz performer Tony Bennett.
Ott described the tour as “…a marvelous opportunity that only comes around once. I knew right then and there, I wanted to go on and pursue music performance as a career.”
Besides Tony Bennet, Ott also performed with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Harrisburg Symphony, and the Virginia Beach Symphony.
For a jazz musician, these names are all highly prestigious.
He was later told about a job opening at Augustana, which was how found himself teaching.
Because of his extensive amount of experience, students have appreciated being able to learn under his guidance from leading the Jazz Combos and Jazz related classes.
“Having Joe as a teacher is a really fun experience. He is one of those professors that has really lived it… from stories about famous jazz musicians that he’s actually met or seen live, to stories about the people he’s played with… He’s taught me about teaching, he’s taught me about how to practice, he’s opened my eyes to things about music theory that I didn’t understand, and honestly, he’s just taught me a lot about life,” describes Senior Dena Baity.
Sophomore Josh Morano shared similar sentiments:
“Having Joe as a teacher I would say is truly rewarding. I really appreciate and am amazed by how much experience and expertise he brings to every rehearsal and lesson.”
Today, Joe is the director of Jazz studies, teaches a multitude of courses from Art of Listening to Jazz Pedagogy, and gives lessons focused on Jazz improvisation.
Outside of the Augustana Campus, Ott keeps himself busy with a performance schedule as a Keilwerth Saxophones Performing Artist.