Musical America names WMU prof Top 30 Professional

contact: Mark Schwerin
| WMU News
Photo of Tom Knific.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A respected music publication has named an accomplished Western Michigan University music professor an innovator and one of the Top 30 Professionals for 2016.

Musical America has included Thomas Knific in its December 2016 issue profiling the Top 30 Professionals for the year. Knific, professor of music and director of the jazz studies program, is featured on the magazine's cover along with other award recipients.

"With input from our readers and colleagues, we chose individuals who have generated new ideas, launched or notably advanced a business, programmed a new series, or all of the above," writes Susan Elliott, the magazine's editor of special reports. "We received more nominations than ever this year, so it wasn't easy winnowing them down to a mere 30."

Charismatic teacher, composer

Winners range from the high profile, such as the president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival to women composers who mentor teenage girls, opera company general managers bringing in new audiences, a cellist who plays in neo-natal units and a conductor who leads choirs of homeless men and women.

Knific was saluted as being "a charismatic teacher, composer, group leader and sideman to the greats, from Dave Brubeck and Randy Brecker to Pepe Romero and André Watts." Knific also was singled out for founding and directing the acclaimed Western Jazz Quartet and "for putting together diverse groups of musicians."

Knific also was lauded for his range as a composer, which "is borne out in his commissions from a range of both jazz and contemporary classical groups." The magazine also noted his involvement in the International Society of Bassists, serving as past president of the organization, and his master classes, which have taken him all over the world, including Beijing, Paris, Berlin and the Czech Republic. He has appeared on five continents and made over 30 recordings and is the recipient of DownBeat magazine's Achievement in Jazz Education award.

"Those who know his work credit him with changing the lives of student bassists worldwide," the magazine adds.

Unexpected accolade

The award came as a big surprise, Knific says.

"I was stunned and delighted to receive this news," he says. "Musical America has always been the gold standard aggregator and publication for the music profession. I am particularly glad they cited both my professional and academic efforts. Though I am still in shock."

Learn more about WMU's jazz studies program at

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit