Music certainly runs deep in Robin Eubanks' blood.
The jazz tromboniist's uncles are pianist Ray Bryant and bassist Tommy Bryant, while his brothers Duane and Kevin are also musicians -- the latter the onetime bandleader for NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Eubanks has kept himself plenty busy, too -- as a sideman and seesion player, leading the groups EB3 Mental Images, and as part of of the all-star SF Jazz Collective.
But he's also found a calling in education, with teaching credits at the New England Coversvatory and Boston's Berklee College of music and, for many years, as a tenured professor at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio.
"When they offered me the position I actually turned it down the first time," says Eubanks, 59, whose mother was an educator in Philadelphia. "I just wanted to play. But I took a second look at it because (fellow trombonist) JJ Johnson recommended me for the position; he did a residency there for a semester, I think, and I thought if JJ thought enough about me to recommend me for a position, I should at least give it some consideration."
And Eubanks learned that Oberlin wasn't about to take no for an answer.
"The dean said, 'We're going to make you an offer you can't refuse," Eubanks recalls. "I said, 'If I can't refuse it, we don't have a problem,' and it was a really good package the pyresent me, so I said, 'OK, let's do it,' and then I really got into the whole concept of teaching and education."
The Oberlin deal allows Eubanks to continue his career -- Mental Images released a new album, "kLassic RocK Vol. 1," earlier this year -- and to travel, where he runs into former students working as far away as China. this week he's been the Michigan State University Colelge of Music's latest Jazz Artist in Residence, working with students at all age levels, all around the state.
"The very basic thing about it that I really appreciate is it's just kind of giving back -- even though that sounds corny, in a way," Eubanks explains. "So many people helped me when I was coming up. They saw some potential and saw I was serious about it and people went out of their way to really encourage me and give me advice and steer min the right direction when I was young.
"So when I got older I saw the need to do the same, and it's been really, really rewarding to watch how the students have gone on from when you have them at Oberlin and actually make careers and livings playing music. It's easy to get very cynical about it; it's a hard premise to make a living playing the trombone or whatever. But there's a long and growing list of people who have left Oberlin and gone on and are doing some nice stuff, and it feels good to have been part of that, even in a small way."
Robin Eubanks and the MSU Jazz Orchestra
7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6.
Clarkston Junior High School Performing Arts Center, 6595 Waldon Road.
Tickets are $10.
Call 248-623-5600 or visit www.clarkston.k12.us/.
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