Saxophonist Eric Koppa began his musical journey in Monroe, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, discovering jazz music in 1989. With friend and fellow musician Jacob Sacks (David Ambrosio/Paul Motian), he organized a jazz combo in junior high. This was followed by years of participation at the Montreal Detroit Jazz Festival and an introduction to some of the great jazz artists of the Detroit area.
Eric received outstanding soloist awards his junior and senior years at festivals and competitions, including nomination to play lead alto in an honors workshop band led by Frank Mantooth. For three years in high school, he played lead alto in the state honors jazz band at the MSBOA sponsored Michigan Youth Arts Festival held in the spring at Western Michigan University. While at WMU, he received clinic instruction from his future saxophone professor, Trent Kynaston.
During summers, Eric attended Bowling Green’s jazz summer camps and studied with Cleveland saxophonist Ernie Krivda and bassist Jeff Halsey. He also spent a summer at Jamey Aebersold’s jazz camp in Elmhurst, IL, again finding Trent Kynaston a source of support as a member of the camp faculty.
Development & Inspirations…
Having spent time on the campus and with the faculty of WMU, during those years at the arts festival, a transition into further education at WMU began in the fall of 1995. During Trent Kynaston’s sabbatical in 1998, Eric studied with resident artists Chris Potter, Seamus Blake, Walt Weiskopf (whom he had met at Aebersold’s camp) and classical artists Lynn Klock, John Sampen and Ken Radnofsky. This was a critical year in the development of Eric’s concepts and techniques. 1998 was also the year Eric forged relationships with drummer Billy Hart and pianist Danilo Perez and performed with the late saxophonist Bob Berg and pianist Kenny Werner.
During his last two years of school at Western, Eric collaborated heavily with Chicago saxophonist Paul Hartsaw, and together developed THE SYNTHESIS PROJECT, exploring the techniques and practice of arena-based improvisation. Paul Hartsaw, as well as drummer Quincy Davis (Tom Harrell), pianist Steve Talaga (Mind’s Eye), and bassist Tom Lockwood (Mind’s Eye) all accompanied Eric on his November ‘99 senior recital (sound clip). Relationships with other key musicians Eric works with today began during the late ’90s at WMU. These musicians include Chicago drummer Mike Caskey (Eastern Blok), trumpeter Jim Donivan (Tyrone Davis), saxophonist Paul Hartsaw, percussionist Paul Spata, and saxophonist Aaron McEvers (M13).
During the summers of ‘97, ‘98, and ‘99, Eric was a staff member at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lakes, Mich., near the eastern coast of Lake Michigan. He participated in the faculty MONSTER BIG BAND, accompanying saxophonist James Carter (‘97), trombonist Bill Watrous (‘98), and trumpeter Marvin Stamm (‘99). Eric accompanied the BLFA International Jazz band in ‘98, and ‘99 under the direction of Bill McFarlin and George West respectively, and spent a month each summer, touring Europe.
Chicago & Beyond…
Inspired by the exodus of many WMU alums to Chicago, Eric moved in February of 2000 and began work at Bob Black’s Saxophone Shop LTD. He held a position as instructor and sales associate, all the while discovering Chicago’s rich musical experience. In 2001, Eric left Chicago to join the Glenn Miller Orchestra, spending four months on the road with the band. Upon returning from the road, Eric focused on recording, small group playing, writing, and arranging. From 2002-2004, Eric performed weekly at Lilly’s on Lincoln Ave. with trumpeter Thad Franklin, guitarist John Zelisko, bassist Matt Ulery, and drummers Ryan Bennett and Michael Caskey. In 2005, as a member of Chicago hip-hop troupe, Treologic, the band won Billboard Magazine and Discmaker’s Independent Music World Series as well as completed their second album, entitled “Thank You, Lenny.” In 2005, Eric Koppa, accompanied by trumpeter Tobias Kaemmerer, saxophonist Rob Haight, trombonist Raphael Crawford, pianist Andrew Toombs, bassist Matt Ulery, and drummer Michael Caskey together recorded “Evolution – The Calling”, available through www.erickoppa.com.
Eric can be found on Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison stages playing with a wide variety of musical ensembles. Refer to the sound clips for a sampling of Evolution, Eric’s debut album.
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