Late Evangel Director of Jazz Studies Given Statewide Honor

by Erin Hedlun, Evangel

Dr. Joel Griffin has been honored posthumously with the 2021 Outstanding Jazz Educator Award by the Missouri Music Educators Association. Griffin served as an associate professor of music and the director of jazz studies at Evangel from 2012 until his passing last fall due to injuries sustained in an auto accident.

“Dr. Joel Griffin was an exceptional musician and educator whose focus on excellence impacted students and the greater music community,” said Dr. Tom Matrone, chair of Evangel’s Music Department. “I am so grateful to have known and worked with Joel. I cannot think of a more qualified individual to earn this honor.”

The Outstanding Jazz Educator Award, formerly known as the Jess Cole Award, is presented to an individual for their outstanding contributions to jazz education. The recipient is selected by the executive board of the Missouri Association for Jazz Education (MOAJE). Griffin was selected unanimously as this year’s award winner.

“Joel was a master teacher, loved by each person he came into contact with,” said Aaron Scriven, director of bands for Kickapoo High School and MOEJE member. “He pushed his students and colleagues to be the best. No one is more deserving of this award.”

Scriven, a long-time friend of Griffin, recently presented the award to Griffin’s wife, Kara, and family.

Griffin was a gifted saxophonist, composer, and educator. He had been part of the professional music scene since 1998.

A native of southern Missouri, he held a bachelor’s degree in saxophone performance from Missouri Southern State University, a master’s degree in music theory from Missouri State University, and a Doctor of Music Arts in Music Education with a research emphasis in jazz studies from Boston University. 

Griffin was known for his ability to connect with students and his deep love for his family. Griffin and Kara have three children.

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