UNLV Jazz Director is Much More Than a Professor
Professor and UNLV jazz studies director Dave Loeb, 63, doesn’t just teach music to Clark County students, he shares his musical knowledge and abilities throughout the world.
Loeb has provided his piano playing for several departments within the entertainment industry, including musical theater, film and television.
He is currently the conductor of Showstoppers at the Wynn Resort and Casino, and plays piano for various television series, such as “Family Guy” and “American Dad.”
Loeb also arranged music for the Academy Awards and American Music Awards, and composed scores for various documentaries, such as “And Thou Shalt Honor” and “Cycling through China.”
Yet, between his duties within the entertainment industry and traveling to various high schools to instruct jazz bands, Loeb still finds time to share his knowledge with UNLV students.
“I just love teaching, and making good musicians into extraordinary musicians,” Loeb said.
Upon graduating from the West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 1974, he became the head pianist for Tony Award-winning entertainer Ben Vereen, which he described as an overwhelmingly challenging, albeit rewarding, experience.
During his tenure with Vereen he played piano for the Broadway theater productions of “Grind,” “Jelly’s Last Jam” and “A Christmas Carol.
Loeb relocated to the competitive music scene of Los Angeles after working with Vereen for six years.
“When I moved to Los Angeles, it was like entering the ocean of the music industry,” said Loeb. “The atmosphere of the music industry in Los Angeles is incredibly strict, and there is little to no room for error.”
Loeb’s television credits during his initial years as a Hollywood studio pianist include “Hill Street Blues,” “The Cosby Show” and “Ally McBeal.”
He also provided piano for various made-for-TV movies, such as “The Natalie Cole Story” and “Gypsy,” starring Bette Midler.
“Working on these shows during my early stages in Los Angeles was the thrill of a lifetime,” Loeb said. “It’s not every day when one can say that they worked with greats like Bette Midler and Natalie Cole.”
Loeb’s piano playing has also been featured in more than 30 feature films, such as “Pocahontas” and “Harlem Nights,” starring Eddie Murphy.
His most recent works within this department include motion pictures directed by Seth MacFarlane, such as “Ted” and “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”
He has also performed with several pop music artists, such as Norah Jones, Barry Manilow and Harry Connick, Jr.
Loeb mentioned that his musical education began at age 7 by taking piano lessons in the Trinity Lutheran Church of Norristown, Pa. While he mentioned that he was not born into a musical family, he believes that his talent was derived from his uncle Bill, a drummer.
He also describes his father as “the person who made me who I am today by introducing me to the musicians I have idolized for years.”
By 16, he attained various gigs throughout Pennsylvania, playing piano in several restaurants and lounges.
His most frequent gig, however, was playing the organ at the Trinity Church of Norristown, Pa., often playing for choir performances and weddings.
“Playing the organ in church was an unforgettable experience,” Loeb said. “This enabled me to collaborate with a church choir and harmonic support underneath singers, which was totally new to me at that particular time.”
Loeb attended West Chester University of Pennsylvania from 1969 to 1974, continuing to perform as a freelance musician to pay for tuition and other expenses.
His tenure at West Chester University of Pennsylvania was spent under the instruction of Bill Dobbins for jazz piano performance, and composer Rayburn Wright for music arrangement.
Throughout the course of his undergraduate studies, Loeb accompanied various jazz instrumentalists such as Kevin Eubanks, Rickey Minor and Dean Parks.
“My jazz instructor back at West Chester usually called me up whenever a local musician needed a pianist. I was always one of very few musicians who never rejected a gig, despite various other responsibilities on my plate,” Loeb said.
He advises all musicians to practice and network as much as possible, as he believes that these are the most essential tactics to prosper their talents.
“I don’t think I have ever worked with a musician as passionate and knowledgeable as Dave,” said UNLV vocal jazz instructor JoBelle Yonely, 53. “He really is the Albert Einstein of the jazz community, and is always a pleasure to work with.”
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