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Tom Kubis

Simply Entertaining
Art | Dance | Music | Theater

By Martie Ramm Engle,
Visual & Performing Arts

A Swingin' Musical Star: Tom Kubis

Musical arranging is defined as “the art of preparing and adapting an already written musical composition for presentation in other than its original form. Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety.”

With this lofty definition in mind, Golden West College can boast that for nearly 30 years, a superstar in the world of music, jazz, composing and musical arranging has been a part of the GWC music faculty. Our own musical superstar? None other than Tom Kubis, winner of the 2008 Los Angeles Jazz Society Composer/Arranger Award presented in an awards ceremony this past October by jazz legend Jack Sheldon. Kubis has just been announced as the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award in Music from California State University, Long Beach to be presented in May 2009.

Is there something special about Golden West College that keeps Tom Kubis teaching here since 1978? “I first came here in 1978 when Dave Anthony and others wanted someone who could teach arranging and composing,” states Tom Kubis. “That is why I was hired. They were all my friends. I really enjoy teaching and have had great students. And, the college is in Huntington Beach, the world’s greatest city.”

Kubis, an outstanding flute and saxophone player, has become one of the most sought after big band and jazz composers and arranger in the world of professional music. Born in Los Angeles, Tom was raised in Huntington Beach and attended Orange Coast College where he studied under Doc Rutherford. He then studied music composition at California State University, Long Beach before hitting the road for many years as a working musician. He performed on saxophone with jazz greats such as Jack Sheldon, Arturo Sandoval, Louis Bellson, and Cat Anderson–to name a few. Soon, however, his performing career became secondary to his burgeoning career as a composer and an arranger.

And what an arranger! His musical arrangements illustrate the contemporary big band sound and have been performed at virtually every major jazz festival in the world including the Playboy Jazz Festival, the Montreaux Jazz Festival and the Berkeley Jazz Festival. As a member of the faculty at Golden West College, he was commissioned to write the finale for the International Association of Jazz Educator’s annual convention in New Orleans. The piece was written and performed by jazz legends such as Branford Marsalis, John Faddis, Clark Terry, and Randy Brecker. “I get to write, work with and be friends with the greatest people on the planet,” declares Mr. Kubis. It would be no exaggeration to claim that his musical arrangements have been played in just about any city that has a big band and have been embraced worldwide by both professional and college musicians. “My arrangements are all over the world.”

As a composer, Kubis composes a new song every day as part of his daily ritual. Most of the arrangements he creates for school bands are his own compositions and arrangements.

Tom was TV icon and musician Steve Allen’s arranger for the last seven years of Mr. Allen’s life, arranging over 100 of Steve Allen’s tunes which ended up as ten original CD’s of Steve Allen material. He spent five years arranging and playing for singer Helen Reddy. He arranged and conducted “The Jackie Gleason 30-Year Reunion Special” and “The Bob Newhart 20-Year Anniversary” both at CBS.

His work was featured as part of the Kennedy Center’s “Beyond Category Series” as a World Premiere concert featuring music by Tony Award-winning Broadway composer Cy Coleman, lyrics by Oscar-winning songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman and starring vocalists Patti Austin, Steve Tyrell, and Lillias White. Tom also conducted his arrangements with jazz great Jack Sheldon in performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City and more recently, performed with his big band for two nights with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

For anyone who loves the big band and jazz sound, Tom’s work with and for so many great musicians and entertainers is positively overwhelming. You can pair Tom Kubis with Jack Sheldon, Merv Griffen, Arturo Sandoval, Bill Watrous, Alan Bergman, Louis Bellson, Chuck Findley, Frank Rossolino and Pete Christlieb and the results are nothing short of fantastic.

Unfortunately, not everything Tom Kubis has written has been recorded and not everything he has recorded has been published. Beginning with his first recording leading his own band Slightly Off the Ground (1989) to one of his latest, A Jazz Musician’s Christmas, listening to Tom Kubis create music magic is as easy as your nearest CD. There are literally hundreds of CDs available where Tom’s arrangements can be heard. Even better, you can catch him with his students performing live and local at Golden West College each fall and spring as well as in concerts and clinic all over the world. In Southern California, Tom Kubis and his Big Band perform at the Jazz Bakery and Tom regularly performs (yes, performs) on the sax, trumpet and piano at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

Does jazz have a future? Tom Kubis remains positive. “There are always new people coming up all over the planet and there are new, truly gifted jazz musicians who will make a name for themselves. There are great musicians everywhere.” Everywhere happily includes Golden West College where bold musical statements are made every time Tom Kubis lifts his baton. Golden West College is proud to claim him as “one of our own.”