Photo courtesy of photo bureau
Professor of music Juan Tony Guzmán, the head of the Luther College Jazz Program and conductor of the Jazz Orchestra, first came to Luther College as a student with the intention of studying in the music department. Before this, he had been a very accomplished musician and a teacher in his own right. At the age of 15, Guzmán became the director of his city’s choir in La Vega, Dominican Republic, and later directed bands within the community.
“I became in love, not just with music,” Guzmán said. “But with the idea of educating through music.”
His love of music and education finally brought him to Luther to seek a more formal education in music education and band direction. After graduating from Luther in 1990, he went on to earn his master’s degree in music education and Ph.D in pedagogy and music theory from Florida State University. He also holds a degree in electrical engineering from Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
At Luther, Guzmán directs the Jazz Orchestra, one of the two jazz ensembles in the music department. Guzman describes working with the Jazz Orchestra as an activity that always excites him.
“It’s a celebration every single day,” Guzmán said. “In my mind there is this sense of anticipation. This is my 24th year at Luther, and yet I feel that every time I go to see the Jazz Orchestra.”
Guzmán has worked with numerous students during his time at Luther. Some of his students enjoy the personal relationships Guzmán tries to build with each of them. Sam Liska (’23) feels that Guzmán creates a welcoming environment.
“[Dr. Guzmán] is just very supportive, warm, and welcoming,” Liska said. “He’s your friend, and I can’t really say that for past directors I’ve had.”
Students who have had the chance to interact with Guzmán for a longer period of time appreciate Guzmán’s dedication to the music department and Luther as a whole. Jazz Orchestra member Colin Weber (‘20) shared his sentiments.
“He really dedicates himself to the Jazz Orchestra and to Luther College in a way you don’t see out of too many professors.” Weber said.
Guzmán’s work and dedication to the Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz Band have paid off, as the Jazz program continues to grow under his leadership. According to Adjunct Professor of Music Jon Ailabuoni, his comprehensive view of music and varied interests and abilities make him an outstanding teacher and musician.
“He’s a tremendous colleague,” Ailabouni said. “He’s not the kind of person who is only siloed into his area of expertise. He has very diverse interests, and really broad professional engagements with choirs, bands, orchestras, publishing choral compositions. He can play just about any instrument.”
Guzmán is proud of the growth he has spearheaded and overseen in the Jazz department and has hopes for its continuing growth in the future. However, it is no wonder that the success of the Jazz Orchestra has so much success, considering both its director and its rigorous rehearsal schedule.
Guzmán states that his inspiration comes from his love of serving others.
“One of the reasons that I teach at Luther is because in this institution I can accomplish that mission to some degree better than I could in other places,” Guzmán said.
Guzmán has shown much dedication and enthusiasm during his time here at Luther and hopes to continue doing so for the rest of the time that he will be here.