G. Michael Eigenbrodt (1973) – Trumpet
I credit Roger Mills with saving, at the very least, my educational process. My grades were extremely subpar but my interest in music was great. I was taking private lessons from Samuel Mages and attending New Trier West High School. I was in the concert band and orchestra and wanted to play jazz in the worst way. I believe that I accomplished my goal of playing trumpet in the ‘worst way’ but with the help and direction of Mr. Mills, I was able to join the New Trier West Recording Jazz Ensemble Program during my senior year of 1972-1973.
Mr. Mills called Dominic Spira who was the Director of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz band and helped me get accepted into their program. I graduated from the UW with a double major in Biology and Geography in Secondary Education and taught high school in Dundee, Illinois. During this time, I kept playing and conducting jazz bands and tried to stay in contact with my former band mates.
Over twenty years ago I moved to Arizona where my wife and I now live. I hope to never see snow again, with the exception of photos from my son, and other family members who still live in the Midwest.
Over time the jazz ensemble alumni have drifted apart. This is why I am so pleased and appreciative of the efforts of those that are now putting together a history of this tremendous organization and fellowship.
Over the last ten years, I have started playing again but now am playing primarily bass. I am in a small band in Arizona that raises money to support our Veterans. I am an active duty First lieutenant with the Arizona Rangers and the State Quartermaster.
I was able to complete my MBA and a MIS and have been a member of the Faculty of Arizona State University. I also still have my trumpets and threaten members of my family that I am tempted to start playing again.
I have fond memories of my time with the New Trier West Jazz Ensemble including the combo and the Lab Jazz Ensemble. My recordings were ruined in a flood, but I can still, (in my mind), hear us playing MacArthur Park, and West Side Story and many great arrangements from Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, and others. It truly changed my life.
I was very saddened to hear about the passing of Phil Hillman. Phil was a great Trombone player and leader but more than that, he was a great person. I remember going with Phil to the north side Sheridan Hotel and being front and center for one of Count Basie’s last concerts. It was beyond eye opening and a night I will never forget.