SHERIDAN — Eric Richards, director of band and jazz studies at Sheridan College, recently earned recognition as the Wyoming Jazz Music Educator of the Year.
The award was announced at the Wyoming Music Educators Association banquet in January.
"Dr. Richards is an amazing educator. He has worked with my students and other students in Wyoming, offered many clinics for teachers and has composed and arranged numerous compositions for student and professional musicians," said Gino Hernandez, president of the Wyoming Jazz Educators.
"He has high expectations for his musicians and helps them achieve their goals," Hernandez added. "He’s not only a great musician but a great person treating everyone with respect at all times."
Recent winners of the honor have included Ben Markley, Shawn Weis, Nick Simons and Gino Hernandez.
At Sheridan College, Richards also serves as music director of the Sheridan Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combo and leads program initiatives in recruiting, outreach and curriculum development.
“It is an honor to receive this award from my fellow music educators in Wyoming,” Richards said. “Since moving to here in 2015, I have been greatly impressed by the commitment to music education in our state, and have been especially inspired by the commitment to jazz education in our schools.
“I’ve had the opportunity to hear and work with many of our students and programs via clinics and concerts,” he continued. “It’s been exciting to see powerful results of the teaching and mentoring that all Wyoming music educators do day after day with the young musicians of our state.”
According to Northern Wyoming Community College District President Walt Tribley, Richards is a statewide advocate for music education in Wyoming and very deserving of this award.
“Dr. Richards is deeply committed to mentoring and educating young musicians and has made a positive difference in the lives of so many,” Tribley said. “We are proud of his hard work and dedication to excellence in his field and lucky to have him as a faculty member at Sheridan College.”
Richards described jazz as America’s unique contribution to the music of the world.
“At a time when so much division and turbulence seems to be a part of our daily life, jazz represents the uniquely beautiful culmination of what can be good, honest and true in American art…the result of powerful and evocative collaboration between the many cultures that have contributed to the life and growth of our country,” Richards said.
Richards is a composer/arranger, conductor, trombonist and educator active in a wide range of musical media and genres. According to the SC website, his music has been heard worldwide in performances and recordings by professional and academic ensembles in major concert venues across the United States, Europe, Asia and India. Richards has also served as an educational clinician, working as a guest conductor of the Connecticut, Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota All-State High School Jazz Ensembles.
Prior to his arrival at Sheridan College, Richards served as a composer and arranger with the United States Army Field Band, retiring with the rank of master sergeant. Then, from 2008-2015, he served as tenured associate professor of composition and jazz studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Richards will lead Wyoming’s top high school jazz musicians in concert and recording at Northwest College on Feb. 22.