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Michael Underwood

Michael Underwood headshotPrincipal Trombone, William "Bill" Vickery Jr. Memorial Chair

Principal trombonist Dr. Michael Underwood joined the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in 2003, and teaches low brass, music theory, and the UALR Jazz Ensemble at UA Little Rock.

In 2019, Dr. Underwood was a featured soloist at the International Trombone Festival and with the ASO. He also was a guest jazz artist and performer at the Jiangsu Normal School in Xuzhou, China. Other performance highlights include the Arkansas premiere of Christian Lindberg’s Mandrake in the Corner with the Little Rock Wind Symphony, featured soloist with the Natural State Brass Band, and a performance fellow at the 2009 Joseph Alessi Trombone Seminar. He has performed with the Tulsa and Shreveport Symphonies, Monterrey, Mexico Symphony, and other regional symphonies in Arkansas, California, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas. In addition, he served in the US Air Force “Band of the Golden West,” at Travis AFB, California.

Dr. Underwood has led the UA Little Rock Jazz Ensemble since its inception in 2012. The band has been featured at the Dardanelle Jazz Festival and the Arkansas State Jazz Festival. He has hosted guest artists Steve Owen, Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Oregon, and Nick Finzer, University of North Texas instructor of jazz trombone. Dr. Underwood also is lead trombonist in the ASO Big Band, and has been featured at the Afterthought Night Club in Little Rock.

An active arranger, he has composed six jazz etudes for the Arkansas High School All-State competition. His arrangements have been performed by the ASO, at UALR, University of Central Arkansas, Stephen F. Austin State University, the Joseph Alessi Seminar, and the Big XII Regional Trombone Conference. He has published three trombone quartets of Debussy’s piano music. In addition, Dr. Underwood is a scholar of the composer, Ann Giffels. He has done extensive research on her life and compositions, and gave a presentation about her at the 2019 Music by Women Conference in Columbus, Mississippi. The ASO performs his orchestration of her Untitled Fugue in the spring of 2022.

Dr. Underwood graduated cum laude from Lawrence University (Wisconsin), earned master’s degrees in music theory and performance from Bowling Green State University (Ohio), and a DMA from the University of North Texas. His teachers include Nick Keelan, Vern Kagarice, Paul Hunt, Joseph Alessi, and John Kitzman. Dr. Underwood is married to Karla Fournier, second clarinetist in the ASO and has a step-daughter Kinsey, also a clarinetist who works and teaches for Arts Plus in Charlotte, North Carolina. He enjoys traveling, running, reading presidential history, and is an avid fan of the Milwaukee Bucks.

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