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Dr. Russ Zokaites presents ‘Bootleg: Appalachian-Inspired Music’ trombone recital

Bootleg Russ ZokaitesDr. Russ Zokaites, visiting assistant professor of music at Morehead State University, will give a concert of new music titled “Bootleg: Appalachian-Inspired Music” at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at the Duncan Recital Hall in Baird Music Hall.  

“Bootleg” includes music explicitly written for Zokaites and based on Appalachian music idioms. Composers and trombonists Bradley Edwards and William Timmons composed music based on existing tunes like “A Wayfaring Stranger,” “Everlasting Arms,” “He’s Gone Away” and “Sweet Betsy from Pike.” Grammy Award-winning composer Kenneth Fuchs and two-time American Prize winner Martin Hebel have used melodic and rhythmic structures found in Appalachian music to write original works.   

MSU awarded Zokaites a creative production grant to record the music from “Bootleg.” The recording will disseminate these new works throughout the trombone and music communities. “Bootleg” is a recital composed with our region in mind and everyone will find something they like to hear.  

“Music is for the populace. I aim to increase appreciation for classical music through education and performance,” Zokaites said. “By creating a community surrounding musical pursuits, we can make music for everyone.” 

Zokaites’ instrumental collaborators include Professor Timothy Anderson from the University of Cincinnati, MSU Professor Dr. Gina Pezzoli, and pianists Mika Komuro and MSU Instructor William A. Murphy. These performers routinely concertize throughout the region and the world.   

Zokaites is a native of Christiansburg, Virginia, where he started playing trombone in the school band. Since then, music has been a vehicle to see the world. He performed recitals at the 2019 and 2018 International Trombone Festivals, 2016 International Horn Symposium, the University of Cincinnati, the Manhattan School of Music, the Netherlands and many more venues. Zokaites, along with Col. Andrew Esch, John Rojak, Kenneth Fuchs and Gerry Pagano, also premiered the Fuchs’ Bass Trombone Concerto in March 2019 with the United States Army Band “Perishing’s Own” and the piano premiere at MSU during the same month. Since then, the piece has been performed by the United States Coast Guard Band, the United States Navy band and by members of the New Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Zokaites will record the concerto with the U.S. Army Band in March of 2020.  

Zokaites joined the faculty at MSU in the fall of 2018. “Bootleg” will be his third faculty recital.   

“My favorite concerts are for local audiences. I really enjoy seeing our community members, friends and students while I perform,” he said. “’Bootleg’ is especially dear to my mountain upbringing and I cannot wait to share this music with an Appalachian audience.”  

For more information about programs in the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, visit, email or call 606-783-2473.