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Music major receives opportunity of a lifetime as Glenn Miller Orchestra drummer

June 10, 2013
Mike Malone
Mike Malone

EAU CLAIRE — Mike Malone, a senior music major at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has been selected to tour indefinitely with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the most popular and sought-after big band in the world today for both concert and swing dance engagements.

According to the Glenn Miller Orchestra website, "The present orchestra was formed in 1956 and has been touring consistently since, playing an average of 300 live dates a year all around the world."

Malone, from Oshkosh, learned about the opportunity to audition as the drummer for the Glenn Miller Orchestra through Robert Baca, professor of trumpet and director of jazz studies at UW-Eau Claire.

"Mr. Baca is contacted by the staff of the orchestra when there are openings for musicians," Malone said. "When he saw there was an opening for a drummer, he encouraged me to audition for the spot."

UW-Eau Claire music major Mike Malone, recently selected to tour indefinitely with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, is shown here performing last March at UW-Eau Claire with Randy Brecker, a five-time Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter. Brecker presented a clinic in the Haas Fine Arts Center during which UW-Eau Claire students had the opportunity to perform with him.

Malone, who currently is on leave from the university to pursue this endeavor, said he recorded the UW-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble I spring concert and sent the orchestra some live tracks of him playing in an actual concert.

"I think they really appreciated seeing me play live as opposed to me recording a bunch of takes on my own to find the perfect one," Malone said. "I put the videos on YouTube and sent them to the road manager for the orchestra. Within a few weeks I got a phone call offering me the job. From there I was set."

Watch the video below for more about Brecker’s clinic at UW-Eau Claire and what students gained from the experience:

Baca said playing with the Glenn Miller Orchestra is held in high regard as the gateway for other national acts and opens up a whole world of possibilities for Malone.

"Mike has become the musical anchor of the most popular and sought after big bands in the world," Baca said. "I'm very proud of him for his tremendous talent, achieved by good old-fashioned hard work, and his entrepreneurship in creating more music opportunities for our town, but most of all, for his nature as a wonderful human being. He will need all of these characteristics to flourish in close quarters with other musicians performing a different concert every night of the year."

Malone said he feels prepared for this opportunity to anchor the Glenn Miller Orchestra and credits the support of the jazz program and instructors at UW-Eau Claire.

"The jazz program and community here are incredible," Malone said. "My professors, including Dr. Jeffery Crowell, associate professor of music, and Mr. Baca, have been incredible mentors in my time here and have always encouraged me to do a lot of things that prepared me for this gig. During my sophomore year, Mr. Baca encouraged me to start my own big band, which has played monthly gigs at Higherground for three years. In that band we would sight-read music all night, with much of the content coming from the Glenn Miller repertoire."

Malone also played in the community at establishments such as Shanghai Bistro, Acoustic Café and Mona Lisa's.

Malone said he plans to tour with the orchestra for at least two years to gain professional experience before venturing out in other avenues.

"I hope to take the experience from touring with this legendary orchestra and apply it to a professional career performing in the jazz circuit," Malone said. "I would really love to migrate to Minneapolis or another large city and play. I would also like to continue my plans to attend graduate school for a degree in jazz performance or pedagogy."

Baca said Malone's opportunities in the music world are endless because of the credential of being the drummer for the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

"This will be a game changer in Mike's career," Baca said. "This opportunity provides him with a substantial credential for other large performance opportunities with major artists because all commercial music is tied to jazz in some way and Mike has become an accomplished jazz drummer."



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