Alumni musicians: Touring the world for jazz and country

Mark Burditt ’81 and Mark Israel ’82Mark Burditt ’81 and Mark Israel ’82 were college roommates. The music majors also shared the same practice rooms and performance venues. More than 25 years later they’re playing side-by-side again, now in the Air Force Academy Band’s jazz ensemble, the Falconaires.

Just as they did at under the direction of now retired UW-Green Bay faculty members Lovell Ives and Jerome Abraham, the pair commands an audience: Burditt on the trombone and Israel on the trumpet.

As one of the Air Force’s two premier jazz ensembles, the Falconaires have a half-century tradition of delivering the sounds of Big Band jazz to national audiences. Their assignments are typically high-level functions, national tours and public concerts. The Falconaires are often deployed to cheer troops, as well. Name a place United States troops have been stationed in the past two decades — Iraq, Somalia, Saudi Arabia — and Burditt and Israel have likely been there.

Having gone their separate ways after college, Burditt and Israel reacquainted at Disneyland in Florida in 1990, where Burditt was employed as a lead trombonist, and Israel was visiting as a member of the Falconaires. Not long after, Burditt aced an audition for the prestigious ensemble, and the Green Bay alumni were reunited.

They scheduled a second trip back to campus for January 2009. (They played with the Air Force Band at the Weidner Center in the early 2000s.) This time the trip was to help celebrate the 80th birthday of their mentor, Ives, and play in a special alumni band at Jazz Fest XXXIX on Jan. 31.

“Even though UW-Green Bay was a smaller school, and perhaps not recognized nationally, my teachers prepared me very well,” says Burditt. “I am deeply grateful for the mentorship of all the UWGB faculty, especially Jerome Abraham and Lovell Ives.”

Israel, who as a collegian won the International Trumpet Guild jazz solo competition, and took Downbeat Magazine’s annual vocal jazz award, is in perfect harmony.

“The music education I received at UWGB continues to be the primary foundation for all my musical endeavors,” he says. “ I appreciate the dedication and sincerity of my professors. They cared not only about musical excellence but also for each and every student.”