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Michael Underwood

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

Dr. Michael Underwood is in his 17th season as Principal Trombone of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and 14th year as Advanced Instructor of Music at UA Little Rock where he teaches low brass, music theory, and is director of the jazz ensemble.

Dr. Underwood was a featured soloist on two separate concerts at the 2019 International Trombone Festival as well as with the ASO this past March and in November. He also was a guest jazz artist and performer at the Jiangsu Normal School in Xuzhou, China this past June. 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, Dr. Underwood has recorded and published all three sets of the Arkansas All-State etudes. He served in the US Air Force “Band of the Golden West,” where he was featured soloist with the Top Brass Quintet, the Commanders Jazz Ensemble, and the Concert Band, where he was principal trombone on two compact-disc recordings.

Since its inception in 2012, Dr. Underwood has led the UA Little Rock Jazz Ensemble. The band has been featured at the Dardanelle Jazz Festival and the Arkansas State Jazz Festival. He has also hosted guest artists Steve Owen, Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Oregon, and Nick Finzer, New York city freelance trombonist. 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 on her life and trombone sonata at the 2019 Music by Women Conference in Columbus, Mississippi.

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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