Skip Menu

Dr. Russ Zokaites releases album ‘Bootleg’ on Nov. 5

Dr. Russ Zokaites PictureDr. Russ Zokaites, visiting assistant professor of music at Morehead State University, is releasing his debut album “Bootleg” on Friday, Nov. 5. The album, published by Centaur Records and distributed through NAXOS, will be available on all streaming services.   

Zokaites joined the faculty at MSU in the fall of 2018. A native of Christiansburg, Virginia, 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, has performed as a featured soloist with the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” at the 2021 and 2019 American Trombone Workshop. 

The University awarded Zokaites a creative production grant to record the music from “Bootleg.” The project showcases Appalachian-inspired music with a foundation in folk music. These compositions, primarily composed for trombone, showcase a variety of styles and techniques but results in a classical sound that is distinctly American. After Zokaites returned home from living in the Netherlands, he wanted to create his musical voice that also reflected the heritage of his home region.  

“American composers have used folk melodies to write American music and to find a style distinctly from our people,” Zokaites said. “I began to work with a team of composers to create this voice specifically for the bass trombone. The creation process took some time and oftentimes seemed more like a journey than a straight line. These four pieces really spoke to what we were trying to create, and I am very proud of the final product.”  

“Bootleg” includes pieces from four different composers who wrote music specifically for this album: “Latchn Duets” by Brad Edwards, who teaches trombone at Arizona State University and is the principal trombonist of the South Carolina Philharmonic; “Serenity” by Martin Hebel, who is a five-time American Prize winner and 2020 recipient of the Presser Foundation’s Graduate Music Award; “Bass Trombone Concerto” by Kenneth Fuchs, a Grammy Award-winning composer who has recorded five albums with the London Symphony; and “A Strange Wayfarer for Bass Trombone and Looping Station” by William Timmons, a trombonist with the United States Air Force Ceremonial Band in Washington, D.C.  

Featured performers on “Bootleg” include Timothy Anderson (tenor trombone), William Murphy (piano), instructor of piano at MSU, Gina Pezzoli (cello), adjunct instructor of music at MSU, and the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” under the direction of Col. Andrew Esch.  

Between developing ideas, composition and fundraising for the project, Zokaites said it took five years to complete from start to finish. The works were recorded at the University of Cincinnati on Sept. 12, 2020, except for “Bass Trombone Concerto,” recorded from March 10-13, 2020, in Washington, D.C. As the works were completed, they were performed at several concerts and venues along the way, including at MSU’s Baird Music Hall in Feb. 2020.  

Zokaites said the collaborations have been fruitful and helped everyone involved bring their A-game as musicians and composers. Now, he hopes the musical palette he presents with “Bootleg” is truly reflective of the diversity of the place that inspired it.  

“This is a huge geographic location that was settled and worked by a wide range of people. I wanted to give this heritage a place on my stage as a contemporary classical musician,” he said. “I really hope that you can listen on your front porch looking at the hills of Appalachia.”  

Dr. Russ Zokaites can be reached at  

For more information about music programs at MSU, visit, email or call 606-783-2473.