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Professor of Trombone, University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz, Austria

Former Member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

Dave Lisik is New Zealand’s most internationally-prominent jazz composer. Much of the reputation of jazz and jazz composition from New Zealand, especially in New York, comes through his recording projects with some of the best jazz musicians working today (Chris Potter, Donny McCaslin, Alex Sipiagin, Jeff Watts, Eric Harland).


I have been a guest artist in New Zealand multiple times, at Dave’s invitation, for both the jazz workshops that he coordinates and the national youth jazz band that he directs with Rodger Fox. Everything that he is doing to connect with high school students is vastly improving their ability to succeed as university jazz students, and that activity is that connection is essential to recruiting those students to the New Zealand School of Music. He has been instrumental in encouraging and preparing several students to win auditions to play in the JM World Jazz Orchestra that I direct annually.


I was a member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (formerly the Thad Jones - Mel Lewis Orchestra) for two decades, including when Dr. Lisik created a book about the history of the orchestra. He and his co-writer produced a memorable documentation of the Thad Jones legacy, which remains an integral part of a young artist’s development in this everlasting genre. 


Dave has proven to be a staple for the success of young New Zealand jazz artists through exposure to repertoire and the vision to continue the achievement of higher goals with a solid understanding of musical foundations.

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DMA, Master's, Honours, and Undergraduate Student (Jazz Composition)

Dr. David Lisik has been a highly instrumental mentor to me in my development as a composer and teacher over the last thirteen years. I first met Dave at the beginning of my third year of my bachelor degree at the New Zealand School of Music in 2010 upon his appointment to Victoria University. During the following years Dave has had a significant impact on my education and professional career. Dave would play a major role in my decision to pursue postgraduate study, going on to serve as the primary supervisor for both my master’s and doctoral level degrees, and we have since collaborated on a number of musical and educational projects.

Dave’s impressive body of work, much of it involving internationally-known artists, was a major revelation and source of inspiration for myself as a young music student. Years later, I have been privileged to have released an album of my own material for a large jazz ensemble, Solipsis - Music of Ryan Brake, with the assistance of Dave. Here, Dave served as the producer, and was instrumental in making this project happen through every step, pouring an unthinkable number of hours into the recording and editing process, and bringing onboard a number of international guest artists. His dedication to this project and my own career as a whole, has led me to a path of my own, equipped with the facilities to take on high-level projects with world-class musicians.

His teaching and approach to jazz and to composition have been highly influential in my development, and in the development of many others. He brings a specialised wealth of knowledge in the field of jazz education, and I often still reflect upon much of his feedback. It is no accident that since his arrival, many of his students from the New Zealand School of Music, New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra, or New Zealand Jazz Workshops have gone on to become leading voices in the New Zealand jazz community. Additionally, through his support, encouragement, and international experience, Dave is able to provide a highly valuable perspective and body of knowledge, that was previously absent, which has seen many of his students to thrive and succeed on an international level, studying at some of the world’s best jazz programs. Dave Lisik’s contributions to jazz education in New Zealand have been immense. 

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Private Trumpet Student (2014 - 2020) and NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra Alumnus

Current Undergraduate Student, Manhattan School of Music (Jazz Performance)

I am currently a student at the Manhattan School of Music and I've been fortunate to know Dave Lisik for almost ten years, having first met him through the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra (NZYJO) when I was 12 years old. 

Throughout high school I took weekly trumpet lessons with Dave for five years at Victoria University and continued to be part of the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Workshops, both of which he directs and runs as director of the New Zealand Jazz Foundation. I was also lucky enough to be part of the Young Musicians Programme and Wellington Youth Jazz Orchestra, projects which Dave led.

His exceptional level of dedication to music, his students, and the various projects he has been involved with have been inspiring to me, and I’ve met few people who are as generous with their time and with opportunities. Dave goes above and beyond by sharing his expertise. His dedication to fostering young musicians through initiatives such as the Young Musicians Programme and jazz workshops is truly admirable. Through these opportunities Dave has created many young New Zealand jazz musicians who have been able to learn, grow and connect with acclaimed jazz musicians such as Alex Sipiagin, Scott Wendholt, and Luis Bonilla who were guest artists and teachers at the annual workshops and New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra tours.

These experiences along with Dave’s teaching, mentorship and encouragement led me to attend Manhattan School of Music in 2020. 

Dave possesses a genuine passion for education, extending beyond jazz into broader musical concepts. We began composition lessons in the last two years before I left for New York, which were pivotal for me. During our time together, Dave provided invaluable insights into composition, trumpet technique, and recording, all of which significantly influenced my development as a musician. He provided me with a solid foundation and always encouraged me to develop my own musical voice.

Dave’s teaching style is constructive and honest, and his mentorship goes beyond the technical aspects of music. He instills discipline, encourages artistic exploration, and takes a personal interest in your music. Even after I moved away, Dave continues to support and encourage me in my musical pursuits by giving me opportunities and emphasizing that working in music should be as much a passion as a livelihood. 

Dave's contributions to the New Zealand music scene, including programmes like the NZYJO and his work as part of Victoria University of Wellington, have made a significant impact in providing opportunities for young talent to flourish, and changed the direction of jazz in New Zealand.

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Master's Student (Jazz Composition)

Current Lecturer in Music, University of Mary Washington, VA (USA)

Dave is a patient and encouraging teacher who I have had the pleasure of working with for many years. During my time taking private lessons from Dave in jazz performance and composition, I found a mentor who is generous with his time, knowledge, and resources. The focus always landed on what could make me and my work better, even outside of our scheduled time.


While I learned many things about jazz and music from Dave, the larger lessons that I took away from that time was who I wanted to be as a teacher and professional, how to relate one-on-one and in front of the classroom. I often think back to the many scores and recordings Dave shared with me in my lessons and I still often reflect and consider his feedback in my head when I work with my own students.


Dave works selflessly as an advocate for his students, something I’ve seen in the professional connections and relationships that he exposes his students to through lessons and composition projects. Outside of my time as a private student and master’s student with him at the New Zealand School of Music, Dave continues to be a champion of and encouraging force in the development and proliferation of my work. 


Dave has become more than a teacher or even a professional colleague to me, if I may put it that way; I consider Dave my friend, colleague, and someone who I look forward to many more years of working together and more importantly someone I can always trust and laugh and get a great bowl of pho with.

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PhD Student (Jazz Composition)

Current Lecturer in Jazz Studies, Mahidol University (Thailand)

Although several music schools in the US and Europe offer a jazz music degree, it can be challenging to find a jazz school in Asia that adheres to the highest educational standards. After exploring a few jazz schools in Asian countries in order to study at a doctoral level, I first met Dr. David Lisik in 2018, and he later served as my primary PhD supervisor at the New Zealand School of Music for three years.

During my period of studying with him, Dr. Lisik’s compositional guidance has greatly transformed how I think of composing jazz orchestra music from a decent quality to a professional one. His methodologies of jazz orchestra music production have given me outstanding knowledge and effective strategies for producing high-quality jazz orchestra music, which have significantly benefited me as a jazz composer.

In addition, I gained knowledge teaching at Dr. Lisik’s jazz camp, the New Zealand Jazz Workshops, which provided me with a wonderful chance to hone my critical skills as a jazz educator. Dr. Lisik’s jazz camps offer New Zealand high school students a fantastic opportunity to learn jazz in a professional environment. They also provide excellent chances for jazz students at the New Zealand School of Music to learn and work closely with renowned international jazz musicians, who are regularly invited by Dr. Lisik to be instructors at the jazz camps. As a jazz educator, I consider the New Zealand Jazz Workshops, which are directed by Dr. David Lisik, along with Dr. Rodger Fox, a prominent New Zealander jazz artist, to be one of the top jazz camps in Asia.

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Director of Jazz and Studio Music

University of Memphis, Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music

Doctoral Committee Chair 


Dave Lisik became one of my doctoral candidates in composition in 2003. He completed the degree with exceptional academic and artistic work, and we have since collaborated on numerous projects. He has come to international prominence as composer, producer, publisher, educator, band leader, and colleague. Dave has truly developed his own sound and style as a composer; he now represents New Zealand as an internationally known jazz composer for both small and large jazz ensembles. I have been fortunate and very humbled to closely watch his career blossom and be a part of some of the collaborations he has undertaken. 


One of the most ambitious set of works Dave completed and recorded is his Coming Through Slaughter: The Bolden Legend album which is a Tour de Force of composition for large jazz orchestra. The CD of the work garnered wide international recognition in 2010 and featured top jazz artists to include Tim Hagans, Donny McCaslin, Luis Bonilla, and Matt Wilson. Dave has been able to build very strong musical relationships with a long list of jazz artists. This is essential for a composer/arranger to achieve, and he has gained the confidence and respect of some very fine internationally known performers. Reputations are made on consistency. Dave has been relentless in his pursuit of artistic excellence as composer which attracts others of like mind.

In New Zealand, as a jazz composition professor, Dave has promoted some of the country’s best young jazz performers and composers. Students of his have been accepted to jazz programs at Manhattan School of Music, University of North Texas, University of Southern California, New York University, Queen's College, Cal State Northridge, and Berklee College of Music. He is also a fine role model in assisting his composition students to producing their initial, professional recordings.

Dave’s depth of knowledge in the field of jazz composition is impressive. He is an accomplished author and co-authored the definitive history of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in a book entitled 50 Years at The Village Vanguard. The book was named Book of the Year by JazzTimes magazine and has become an essential publication related to the compositions and history of Thad Jones and his legendary collaboration with drummer Mel Lewis.



Director of Jazz Studies, University of Northern Iowa

Dave Lisik’s impact in the field of jazz composition is felt worldwide. His students have been admitted to the best graduate programs in jazz in the USA, and many have already launched their own recording careers. His brilliant original music is well documented on several CDs, recorded by a dazzling collection of the world’s top jazz artists. He has also made significant contributions to the preservation of historically important big band jazz music through his book, 50 Years at the Village Vanguard (co-written with Eric Allen), and his forthcoming recording of the scores of Thad Jones. 


I am blessed to be part of the roster of artists on his SkyDeck label, a roster that includes such luminaries as Donny McCaslin, Alex Sipiagin, Dave Kikoski, and Luis Bonilla (among many, many others), each of whom is a prominent voice on their respective instrument. Additionally, his label has made a home for many up-and-coming artists like myself, Mike Conrad, Anthony Williams, Tanarat Chaichana, and Levi Temple. He lends a musician’s ear to the production process, and his recordings sound “right.” He never interferes with the artist’s vision in order to make a more “marketable” product, but trusts the vision of each artist he brings on board. 


A wonderful benefit of Dave’s activity in the professional world is that he frequently brings top-level jazz musicians to his campus to interact with his students. This has a huge impact on each student in the music school. One common criticism leveled against university jazz programs is that they lack real-world authenticity. This is a common complaint even in the USA, where jazz was born. How lucky the students are at NZSM to have the opportunity to interact with professionals of the level of Dick Oatts or Luis Bonilla. This type of interaction is all the more valuable in a location where touring jazz musicians rarely visit. Dave has worked hard to make the Victoria University of Wellington a jewel among jazz programs worldwide.



Associate Professor of Music History & Culture Department of Music
College of Fine Arts & Communication Towson University



Dave Lisik and I worked together for nearly seven years, when I served as Lecturer of Contemporary Music and Culture at the New Zealand School of Music. During that period, we became close friends and professional colleagues. In the first context, we spent many hours discussing jazz and composition pedagogy, and in the second, I was able to see first-hand the remarkable work he completed during that period, in each of the areas of teaching, administration, and creative work. 

Throughout his long tenure at NZSM, Dr. Lisik has contributed immeasurably to both the institution and to New Zealand music culture more generally. Upon joining the teaching staff of the joint VUW/Massey endeavor, he was essentially asked to create a previously non-existent position. Both universities had a tradition of jazz performance, and the VUW composition program was of course already internationally known. Dave was tasked with bridging not just two distinctive but complementary institutions, but more broadly, two distinct but complementary disciplines: integrating jazz into the composition program and vice versa. 

A third dimension of his position—note that this was prior to the hiring of any teaching staff specifically in the area of music education—was program building. Drawing on his experience working with secondary, tertiary, and graduate student populations, Dave was well situated to liaise, both nationally and internationally, with students making the sometimes daunting transition between these worlds. On one hand, through his leadership of the New Zealand Jazz Foundation, Jazz Educators Workshop, NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra, NZSM Jazz Festivals (and the list goes on), he has had a significant impact on recruitment to the jazz program. On the other hand, a number of Dave’s secondary and graduate students have gone on to further study in jazz performance and/or composition, both in New Zealand and abroad. Even in my most recent conversation with Dave, he was working through another initiative designed to help university level students prepare for entrance into postgraduate programs. 

In terms of ‘craft,’ Dr Lisik’s teaching is rigorous, inventive, and interactive. His teaching is carried out with pedagogical creativity and tireless commitment. Students are challenged in ways that at first seem uncomfortable, but through guided solo and collaborative creative work combined with individual mentorship, they are encouraged to thoroughly explore their creative potential. No matter the individual aesthetic, Dave is committed to helping his students realize it. I regularly witnessed the personal, scholarly, and creative growth of students I had taught early in their career as they worked closely with Dave in their area of specific interest and professional aspiration. 

Dave’s creative work might speak for itself. But I’d like to offer some perspective, both as a former colleague and now as a professional peer. As a composer, Dave has been almost incomprehensibly prolific as long as I have known him. His music is original, dynamic, engaging, full of challenge and surprise, and expertly crafted. His deep experience with all levels of jazz performance is audible in his writing for jazz ensembles, as is his comprehensive knowledge of jazz and, more broadly, of 20th and 21st century music history. The quality of this work is evident in the enthusiasm with which some of the most internationally respected figures in the jazz world have collaborated in his work. Personnel listings on his records read as a ‘who’s who’ of contemporary artists. Through his work with local and national ensembles, including the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra (Australia) and the Trans-Tasman Jazz Orchestra (an Australian/New Zealand big band project), he has contributed just as significantly to New Zealand jazz culture in his role as an artist as through his teaching and mentorship. 


One dimension of Dave’s contribution to the School that may not be evident from the outside is his facilitation of his colleagues’ creative work. In his role as recordist, producer, and publicist with SkyDeck Music, Dave has been something of a one-man research factory, releasing album-length recordings of a number of his colleagues that have been significant in NZSM’s creative output and public profile. The School owes him a great debt of appreciation for this additional (and uncompensated) work. In my time on the teaching staff, I came to look forward to Dave’s contributions to ongoing internal discussion of the direction of the institution, from the broadest ‘outward-facing’ dimension down to the minutia of course and degree plans. In the truest spirit of academe, Dave is unafraid to disagree or to be disagreed with, always in good faith and with commitment to productive discourse around the issues and in light of the most contemporary pedagogical practice and philosophy. 

Dave has integrated himself with, nurtured, and grown jazz education in Wellington and New Zealand more broadly. He has a deep understanding of local and national jazz culture and a commitment to celebrating all that makes that culture unique. 

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Doctor of Musical Arts student (Jazz Composition)

Multi-Instrumentalist, Producer and Composer


Dr. Dave Lisik has been a fantastic asset to the New Zealand School of Music as an educator, mentor, composer and driving force of all things jazz since moving to New Zealand in 2010. His international experience, expertise and enthusiasm has brought fresh perspectives and knowledge to the New Zealand jazz scene, particularly in the realm of contemporary and innovative jazz composition. Dave brings a wealth of in-depth knowledge and understanding of both jazz and classical music to his work in education and as a composer, incorporating a deep appreciation and conception of the musical intersection between tradition and contemporary development.


I have been particularly impressed by Dave's willingness to go above and beyond for his students, by personally overseeing the development of promising students and setting them up for incredible international opportunities. Dave's passion for his students, and the wider implications of music education on a societal level were demonstrated with a Postgraduate Jazz Pedagogy course, which he created and ran with the express purpose of trying to create the best possible environment for future generations of musicians to reach their full potential. Dave's extensive experience as a music educator working at all different levels has allowed his insight into this "bottom up" approach, and how it scales up to have a hugely positive effect on the wider community. 


For me personally, Dave has been a positive and supportive teacher, mentor and more recently the primary supervisor for my doctoral programme. His open-mindedness, forward looking perspective and positive attitude has been greatly appreciated along the way, along with providing valuable perspective and insights drawing from his extensive and diverse experience in jazz composition, research, and education. I'm very grateful for the dedication, guidance and support Dave has given me and many, many others, along our own personal musical journeys. 



Former student, NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra Alumnus, Manhattan School of Music Alum

Current professional jazz bassist


I have had the privilege of knowing David Lisik for nearly a decade, and his dedication and expertise in jazz have left an indelible mark on my journey as a musician. I first crossed paths with David in 2013 during my years as a high school jazz student in New Zealand. Through his role as the Coordinator of Jazz Composition at Victoria University of Wellington and his involvement as chair of the New Zealand Jazz Foundation, David has played a pivotal role in nurturing the talents of countless young musicians, including myself. His leadership in programs such as the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra and New Zealand Jazz Workshops has been nothing short of transformative.

Without the opportunities and mentorship that David provided through these programs, I, along with many others, may not have pursued careers in jazz or pursued tertiary-level studies in this art form. David's ability to inspire, educate, and guide aspiring jazz musicians is a testament to his pedagogical skills and unwavering commitment to the New Zealand jazz community. Having held faculty positions in the United States prior to his tenure at Victoria University of Wellington, David brings a wealth of experience and a global perspective to his role. His dedication to the craft of jazz composition and his ability to bridge cultural boundaries through music have made him a respected figure in academic and jazz communities.

I believe that since moving to New Zealand in 2010 to start this position, David has changed the landscape of the New Zealand jazz scene. His passion, expertise, and commitment to fostering the next generation of jazz musicians make him an invaluable asset to Victoria University. I consider Victoria University to be incredibly fortunate to have someone of David’s caliber and experience on faculty as a Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of Jazz Composition. I am confident that he will continue to excel and inspire, just as he has done for me and countless others.

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Excerpt from Hamish's: Notes On The Move - A Young Jazz Musician's Path to the United States:

It's August of 2014. I'm in Wellington, New Zealand rehearsing in preparation for a tour with the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra. I remember the first day we rehearsed with Luis Bonilla, who had just gotten off the plane from New York. I was totally mesmerized by his musicality, humor, and leadership. He said to me, on the second day of rehearsal, "One day you're going to move to New York and play with everyone, and you don't even know it yet." This comment he made wasn't necessarily to increase my self confidence, but was to provide a sense of motivation and inspiration that it could be done. And oh boy, did it provide motivation.

Around the same time, I met Dr. David Lisik of the New Zealand School of Music, a Canadian-born educator, trumpet player and composer, who was one of the directors of the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra. Both Lisik and Bonilla were both incredibly encouraging and I recall Lisik saying to me, "Man, you know you could be the next Matt Penman." This was around the time that I started becoming aware of the who's who of the New York jazz scene and Penman, being an expat New Zealand bassist, made for the perfect inspiration as he had pathed a way to the U.S. in 1994. Again, this comment from Lisik wasn't implying that I would undoubtedly go on to be a professional jazz musician based in New York City, rather that I could be if I wanted to, just like anyone else can achieve their dreams if they believe in themselves.


These two moments of motivation from Bonilla and Lisik sparked the beginning of my journey as forms of external sources who believed in me. And sometimes that's all it takes.



Former student, New Zealand School of Music and NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra Alumnus 

Dave Lisik has left an indelible mark on my life, shaping it in profoundly positive ways. If it weren't for his invaluable guidance, wealth of knowledge, and unwavering encouragement, I wouldn't be on the path I am today.

I first met Dave at the age of 14, through the Young Musicians Program (YMP, Jazz). Back then, my passion for jazz was brimming with energy, but it lacked the necessary guidance to channel it effectively. Dave Lisik emerged as my guiding figure, illuminating the enigmatic journey of aspiring to become a Jazz musician. His profound insights and unrelenting dedication to jazz and music education have been, and continue to be, an immense source of inspiration for me. To me, he is a pioneer, forging paths in jazz education right here in Aotearoa and responsible for the success of so many of the best Jazz musicians nationwide.

Under his mentorship, my musical aspirations gained clarity, encouragement and so much support. For over a decade, Dave's guidance and wisdom have been integral to my educational journey, spanning from my school years to university and into my career as a musician. Dave Lisik possesses a unique gift: the ability to motivate individuals to strive for excellence, always conveyed with an undeniable grace, kindness and commitment to improving musicians journey in becoming the best versions of themselves.

In my current role as an educator in various schools around Wellington, I continually draw upon not just what Dave taught me but also how he taught it — with an unparalleled blend of kindness, passion, and an unwavering commitment to unraveling this amazing art form. I am profoundly grateful for the privilege of having Dave Lisik as a role model and mentor in my life.



Former student, New Zealand School of Music and NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra Alumnus 

Current Master's Student (Queens College, New York) 

Dr. David Lisik has been a highly influential mentor in my career as a jazz musician. His passion and knowledge as a composer and educator is something he shares keenly with anyone who asks, and the opportunities he creates for Kiwi jazz musicians both locally but, very importantly, on a global scale, is something I feel is sorely undervalued. Lisik’s attention to detail, expertise and guidance within the idiom of jazz, and his international experience as a jazz educator, have all played vital roles in my own development as a musician, and he continues to be an important advisor in my professional career. 


Especially owing to his work with a lot of the world’s leaders in jazz and jazz education (Dick Oatts, Alex Sipiagin, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra), Dr. Lisik is able to create avenues for young Kiwi musicians to experience some of the best higher education opportunities in the world. He brings world-class musicians to New Zealand to teach clinics at NZSM, the New Zealand Jazz Workshops, and also to the Wellington and New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestras, giving young Kiwis a chance to play and learn from the best right in our back yard. His extensive knowledge of jazz education around the world, particularly in North America allows him to guide many students into graduate and post- graduate programs at some of the best conservatories today, and he constantly strives to better his own networks, professional output and awareness, meaning he is always well-placed to help future musicians grow and discover their potential. 


I learned from and worked with Dr. Lisik primarily during my time at the NZSM (2013-2017) and also collaborated with him in various honors and professional ensembles outside of university. I was always impressed and well-served by his attention to detail - whether in critique of a new composition, a playlist of suggested listening, or his rehearsal techniques within combos and jazz orchestras. Dr. Lisik is particularly good at pinpointing the finer details that help in the long run, and with the overall picture. This applies whether in composition, rehearsing, education networking or with general career advising. Today, Dr. Lisik continues to deliver high-quality work as well as opportunities for musicians in New Zealand and across the globe. He has played a large role in New Zealand jazz education since his arrival, and his projects engage some of the top musicians from home and New York, meaning that, now at the professional level, Dr. Lisik’s work brings a wealth of opportunity to the current and future generations of New Zealand jazz musicians.

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Professor of Music, Coordinator of Clinical Experiences, University of Nevada Reno

Dr. David Lisik has made outstanding contributions to jazz composition, jazz education, jazz history, and music education. As a musician, band director, and music education faculty I have had many interactions with Dr. Lisik spanning four decades. We first performed together during 1990-91 in the University of Manitoba Jazz Band when David was an exceptional high school trumpet student invited to join the college ranks. This commitment to excellence has proven to be something he brings to all professional endeavors, whether it be his teaching, composing, authoring, or performing.


Our paths would continue to intertwine over the decades. We both earned Master of Music degrees from University of Northern Iowa—albeit in different years and degree programs—an institution renowned for its jazz and education degrees. Later, while at University of Nebraska –Lincoln I sought to recruit him as a doctoral student as he would have contributed greatly to the institution and education community, which he did in Memphis and later Wellington. Following his teaching, composition, and performing career closely, as a fellow Winnipegger and Northern Iowa alumni, I have watched him receive numerous accolades, author noteworthy books and articles, and record albums featuring some of the jazz world’s most heralded artists.

When creating the inaugural Anchorage Jazz Festival as a professor of music at University of Alaska, Anchorage, of all the people in the world I knew who I could bring to Alaska as a guest artist and clinician, David was at the top of the list. He proved, again, to be the right person for the gig. Most importantly, having presented myself as a guest lecturer at Victoria University (at his invitation) and University of Auckland, I observed how much Dr. Lisik has done for New Zealand and Wellington. While his contributions have transcended New Zealand’s boundaries, he has significantly enhanced the musical environment of New Zealand and cultivated interest in jazz, composition, and music in general throughout New Zealand. What an outstanding asset and ambassador your university has in Dr. David Lisik.

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New Zealand Jazz Educator, Head of Music and Jazz Director, Burnside High School

As the Head of Department and Director of the Big Band at New Zealand’s leading specialist music school, I can testify to the huge contribution Dave Lisik has made to Jazz Education in New Zealand over the thirteen years that I have known him. Dave is passionate about his subject and craft and has proved to be pivotal in the development of a number of our highest achieving students in the Jazz field, some of whom are now forging their own professional careers here and overseas.

After meeting for the first time at the NZSM Jazz Festival in 2011, Dr Lisik willingly travelled down to Burnside on several occasions, working with our students and promoting the NZSM; he was quick to identify our students who had the talent and potential to benefit from the higher level of education he was able to provide them with and went on to personally tutor/mentor them, providing countless opportunities for them to develop their skills and knowledge.

At Dr. Lisik’s invitation, I continue to be a trustee of the New Zealand Jazz Foundation, an organisation he leads with drive, passion and energy. Through opportunities and activities like the NZYJO, Online Jazz Theory and Composition classes and the New Zealand Jazz Workshops, including professional development classes for teachers and bandleaders, many of my students and colleagues have had opportunities to learn and hone their craft that would otherwise have been unavailable to them in this country.

The benefits of this learning are clear to see when my students hit the competition stage; the Burnside Big Band has won every competitive event they have entered since 2011, including five times at the NZSM Jazz Festival and now two consecutive years of the Young Jazz Band-it competition. The level of sophistication in my students’ improvised solos is in no small part due to the enhanced learning they have gained from Dr Lisik’s tutelage and guidance and this impacts extremely on the band as a whole, inspiring the younger students to follow in their footsteps.

Dr Lisik’s contribution to the New Zealand Jazz scene as a composer is also prolific; his ability to reach out and collaborate with global artists is surely a huge asset for the university and, again, I see very clearly how his work continues to inspire a new generation of jazz musicians and composers at senior high school level.

Finally, Dr. Lisik is a source of invaluable help and support to me personally as I continue to try and drive standards higher in my department. His advice and practical help is always appreciated. It is no understatement to say that Dr. Lisik has changed the face of Jazz Education in New Zealand; his vision for excellence on a global level for emerging jazz musicians has transformed the way in which these high-achieving students view their craft, and it is my sincere hope that this will continue long into the future.

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New Zealand Jazz Educator, Chair: Christchurch Jazz Foundation Trust

Christchurch Big Band Festival Director

I am chair of the Christchurch (New Zealand) Jazz Foundation Trust, Festival Director of the Christchurch Big Band Festival, co-chair of Music Education Canterbury, and Jazz Director for the award-winning Chisnallwood Jazz Band and Shirley Boys Jazz Bands.

Dave Lisik has made huge impacts on jazz education and composition in New Zealand which my students and I have benefited from immensely over the years. In particular, his annual New Zealand Jazz Workshops which draws students and teachers from around New Zealand to Wellington for a week each year have helped raise the standard of teaching and playing, shown pathways for students, and helped important networking to happen in the jazz field in New Zealand. There is nothing else like this in New Zealand and it has certainly helped put Victoria University of Wellington on the map.

Alongside this, I have been fortunate to see some of my students benefit hugely in their jazz development by being involved in these workshops as well as through other opportunities taught by Dave as members of the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra. In some cases this had led to extremely successful life careers in jazz.

Dave has been a supporter and encourager of all jazz education opportunities run outside Wellington as well, such as workshops and concerts at the Christchurch Big Band Festival. Dave's impact on New Zealand jazz education is significant and Victoria University of Wellington are fortunate to have someone of his calibre and influence.



Undergraduate and Honours Student, NZSM and NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra Alumnus

Current Master's Student (KUG, Graz, Austria)

Dave Lisik was instrumental as a teacher for me when I was in high school. I first met Dave at the New Zealand Jazz Workshops in December of 2016. It was here that Dave showed me a whole new approach and ideology to jazz improvisation which was pivotal to both my musical growth and love of the trombone. Dave not only clearly explained the importance of developing an expansive jazz vocabulary to me, but also gave me the tools to develop our own jazz vocabulary. Whether this was with ii-V-I backing tracks or sheets of jazz vocabulary. Dave also showed me how to use these tools to develop an expansive set of jazz vocabulary and how to implement these bits of jazz vocabulary over different jazz standards. I also remember Dave explaining the importance of developing a strong swing feel. Like how he teaches jazz improvisation Dave not only gave me all the tools to succeed but also showed me how to use them. Dave showed me multiple different important jazz records from the greats such as Count Basie, but also what to listen for stylistically in these records. I still remember Dave clearly pointing out where the Count Basie Jazz Orchestra would lay back in phrases and the passion that brought out in him. My interest in jazz at high school would have never been as intense if it wasn’t for the lessons I learnt from Dave.

The New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra (NZYJO) was pivotal for me as it provided the perfect bridge between jazz at a high school level and at a university level. As someone who always felt that their passion for jazz was greater than anyone in their high school, it was great to connect with musicians from across New Zealand who were equally as passionate. This led to many great rehearsals, performances, and friendships forming over the love of jazz. The opportunity to work with world class talent of the likes of Tom Luer and Francisco Torres from a young age was an experience I’ll never forget. Being able to rub shoulders with musicians that great showed me what it takes to be a professional musician both on and off the stage.

Being able to also be under both Rodger Fox’s and Dave Lisik’s guidance for the NZYJO was also incredible for my development. Not only was it an opportunity to be under the guidance of 2 of the very best big band conductors in New Zealand, but also have the opportunity to form strong connections with the both of them before studying at the New Zealand School of Music. Both Rodger and Dave were incredible at balancing the big picture of how the NZYJO sounds as a collective but being able to focus on the strengths of each individual band member. Rodger and Dave were also provided plenty of guidance by suggesting ways on how each band member can improve upon their weaknesses. I still remember Dave suggesting a practice method on how I can stop cracking my notes in a NZYJO rehearsal and it is still an exercise I use 4 years later in my own practice routines. The NZYJO was perfect for me to do before studying at the New Zealand School of Music as it not only showed me that I was ready to start studying jazz but also gave me the confidence to know that I will succeed in doing so.

I had Dave as lecturer at the New Zealand School of Music for four years, and those classes were incredibly important for my musical development. Dave not only knew how to effectively deliver the course material but also gave important lessons on what it takes to not only make it as a professional musician, but also on how to be a great musician. Dave’s jazz theory classes were incredibly important as it not only gave me a foundation to compose and arrange effective jazz music, but also allowed me to understand what harmonic techniques a musician was using in an improvised solo. This was incredibly important as it allowed me to have context and understand the harmonic techniques that us as jazz musicians use in improvisation. 


As my composition lessons progressed with Dave, he was not only incredibly supportive of my own creative ideas but also knew how to push and develop me so my creative ideas would enhance my compositions to the point where they were always exceeding expectations. This was also done through various teaching methods as well such as experimenting with my own composition or a wide variety of movie metaphors. Dave’s investment in me opened many different opportunities for me, whether it was to be a copyist, a sound engineer, or the opportunity to study overseas. The support, care, and nurturing Dave gave me and many other students was something far greater than what I could have ever imagined from a teacher. It is something that I will always cherish and be forever grateful for. If I am ever fortunate enough to be in a teaching position, the core principles Dave has shown in his teaching, will be what I try to emulate in my own teaching. Any student that is willing to take on Dave’s teaching advice has always gone far and been successful in jazz.



Undergraduate and Honours Student, NZSM and NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra Alumnus

Current Master's Student (University of Southern California) 

Dave Lisik has been a crucial part of my jazz education and my development as a musician before, during and after studying at the New Zealand School of Music. Along with Rodger Fox, he created a pathway for young musicians with an interest in jazz by running and leading various outreach programmes and events. These include the NZSM jazz project (an annual national secondary school competition), the NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra and the annual Summer Jazz Workshops. These programmes create a world in which young jazz musicians are able to learn and grow. Together, Dave and Rodger foster a space in which jazz is inspiring, highly valued and considered something worth pursuing. For me, participating in these events was pivotal in my decision to pursue jazz studies, and the reason I enrolled at the jazz school at the New Zealand School of Music.


While I was still in high school, Dave came to my school’s music camp and gave me an introductory jazz theory lesson which was an essential starting point to my engagement in and understanding of jazz theory. I also attended a lecture he gave about the music of Maria Schneider. This opened my mind to the intricacies and complexities of jazz orchestral composition and increased my desire to further study composition. Once at the NZSM, Dave continued to be an expert guide through the challenges of jazz theory and composition. As a composition teacher, Dave explained various concepts and components of jazz composition, encouraging students to listen to a wide range of composers, to engage in score reading and analysis, and to respond to each other’s work in class. He gave valuable feedback and insight while leaving room for students to develop their own compositional voice. He also taught essential jazz theory and ear training concepts that gave me a scaffold for growing us a musician.

After I graduated from the NZ School of Music with Honours, Dave continued to support my compositional efforts as well as encouraging me to continue my jazz education. He has been a highly valuable teacher and mentor to me for over a decade, and I am very grateful for his support, encouragement and musical insights.

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Private Trumpet Student (Memphis, Tennessee)

Undergraduate (Cal. State Northridge), Master's (Berklee, Valencia)

Dave Lisik has been a massive influence and inspiration for my education, career, and life. During high school, I was lost, unfocused, and mildly depressed largely due to side effects from a medication I took for epilepsy. Also during this time, I met Dave while playing in a big band he directed for a summer camp hosted in the University of Memphis. This early experience playing in Dave's band was so positive that my parents encouraged me to continue to take lessons from Dave.


In lessons with Dave, we studied fundamental Jazz theory, practiced Jazz etudes, learned tunes, and drilled trumpet technique. Seeing Dave's passion and proficiency for improvising inspired me to want to achieve the same, and his ability to clearly break down and explain what he did made it feel possible. Furthermore, my own growth as a musician helped immensely with my own focus and healing at the time. To this day, I am eternally grateful for these lessons.


After high school, Dave has always continued to offer sound advice and support for my development and career. I've always been able to count on Dave for constructive, meaningful feedback for anything I send whether that's a composition, a solo, a resume, or a career choice. I'm very thankful to have been able to have had Dave as a teacher and mentor.

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Private Trumpet Student, Undergraduate Student, NZSM and NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra Alumnus

I first met Dave Lisik in 2013 when I was a member of the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra (NZYJO). Shortly after, I started to take improvisation, composition, and trumpet lessons from him via Skype and in person. I later attended the New Zealand School of Music (NZSM) for the first year of my undergraduate degree where Dave was one of my lecturers. Dave’s teachings have helped shape me into the the player and composer I am today. More specifically, he taught me the importance of swing feel and introduced me to a lot of great music, including music by the Count Basie Orchestra, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, and Michael Brecker, to name a few. Among his ever-increasing list of projects on the go, Dave is instrumental in running the NZYJO, the NZSM Jazz Project, and the Student Summer Jazz Workshops. I’ve had the privilege of taking part in all these groups and events. They wouldn’t be the same or, in some cases, might not even exist, without Dave’s contribution. Dave has a passion for teaching and is generous with the time and effort he gives to his students. I highly recommend Dave as a teacher.

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Professor of Music

LeMoyne-Owen College (Memphis, Tennessee)

When he was Director of Jazz Studies at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tennessee, I was always impressed with Dr. Lisik’s extensive knowledge and professionalism in and out of the classroom. His insight, knowledge of procedures, and innovative thoughts were most helpful and inspiring to the other music faculty members, and me, and he was always interested in the opinions of others.


One of Dr. Lisik’s admirable qualities is his ability to relate to his students, establishing a rapport of mutual respect and appreciation. His teaching technique is clear, deliberate and geared to the understanding level of his students. He will support whatever theoretical or performance aspect, being discussed with examples and practical application. His students also really excel when they are given an opportunity to perform with him. His expertise in jazz composition, theory, and performance, has been reflected in the superior progress of his students and ensembles. He has a quiet, demeanor; therefore, when he speaks, he commands the attention of everyone around him. His students professed that they felt he cares how well they were doing, and that he takes the time to tutor them individually, if need be, I’m difficult subjects. Dr. Lisik consistently demonstrates superb leadership beyond his teaching duties, developing a Music and a jazz webpage, creating a new mini lab and teaching music technolo


Dr. Lisik also undertook a major project by establishing a record label for the college to showcase our students' performing abilities. He’s done the recording and mixing on several projects and tracks from the African drumming CD have already been selected to use on a PBS documentary regarding the slave trade in 18th century Florida. In addition to the invaluable experience, they provide the students, the recordings will be utilized in student recruitment and public relations for the college. It is a real pleasure to work with Dr. Lisik. He has an amiable personality, and always demonstrates a can-do spirit. Dr. Lisik is welcome to asset to the music faculty.


Professor Jazz and Studio Music

University of Memphis, Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music

Doctoral Committee Member

David Lisik is a fine teacher and an outstanding musician. As an educator, Dr. Lisik has a comprehensive knowledge of the Jazz idiom, its history, and pedagogy. His performance while a doctoral student and TA at the University of Memphis was of the highest caliber. Each course he taught (including the graduate level jazz history class), was presented in a clear, straightforward manner with achievable and precise goals. His students’ understanding and musicianship improved at a rapid pace. His teaching manner was cordial but effective. 


One of Dr. Lisik’s greatest strengths lies in his versatility as a musician. In addition to his expertise as a trumpet player, he is a fine drummer, has a thorough working knowledge of keyboard harmony/style, and is a functional bass player. This unusual combination gives him the ability to direct a large jazz ensemble with rare insight. He developed his University of Memphis Jazz Ensemble II, into one of the best I had seen at this institution in more than 20 years. 


David’s compositional expertise is exceptional. He is a prolific writer, working in diverse genres simultaneously, continuously stretching himself and pursuing a high level of excellence. I have on many occasions had the pleasure performing his compositions and arrangements and I've always had an enlightening and challenging experience. ​​


Professor Emeritus

University of Memphis, Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music

Doctoral Committee Member

I was David Lisik’s classical composition teacher during his years as a doctoral student at the University of Memphis. David is one of the top students I have come in contact with here at the University of Memphis in over 40 years of teaching. He is truly a remarkable person and gave much more to our musical program than he got. His work as Director of Jazz Band II was truly great and he brought that group up to a very high level of quality performance. His warm and pleasant personality, in addition to his musical skills and experience, make him an excellent teacher. I have heard several performances by David on his recitals at the school, and I found him to be a very exciting jazz performer with a strong performance capability on the trumpet. His jazz arranging talents are remarkable and his subsequent success in the area is not surprising.


Parent of Private Trumpet and Jazz Student

Memphis, Tennessee

Dr. David Lisik is an amazing teacher, artist, composer, and producer. I am grateful for his guidance and influence while teaching my son, Dylan, and in the years since. My son was typical band kid in middle school who just wanted to get better to compete. While studying with Dave, a light switched on and Dylan began to see Jazz as an art and musical expression like nothing he had studied before. With Dave’s coaching and recording skills, Dylan was selected for a Downbeat award- winning high school band which won at the Monterey Next Generation Festival hissenioryear. DylanwentontobeselectedfortheCaliforniaStateNorthridge Jazz A Band, which won Downbeat’s Best College Jazz Band, won the Reno and Monterey Next Gen Jazz Festivals, and earned the right to play at the Monterey Jazz Festival Dylan’s junior year. Dylan went on to receive a generous scholarship to attend Berklee in Valencia, Spain where he had the opportunity to perform throughout Europe and graduated with a master's degree in Music Performance and Technology. Throughout college, Dylan had multiple compositions selected for performances and recordings. Instructors at each of these outstanding schools always complimented Dylan’s solid jazz foundation and knowledge beyond his years. I have absolutely no doubt that foundation was put there by Dave Lisik.

We have been happy to see Dave’s continued success since joining Victoria University with his Village Vanguard book, recordings which include some of the best names in Jazz and success of his students and festivals. He is respected by educators and artists alike – you are blessed to have him on your faculty.


Superintendent of Education

Transcona-Springfield School Division

David Lisik was Director of Bands at Murdoch MacKay Collegiate (Winnipeg, Canada) from 1998-2003. As Superintendent of Education, I was familiar with his many accomplishments. Dr. Lisik was appointed to a position that was struggling. Through his dedication and commitment, he was able to confront many challenges and to successfully transform the band program. He was able to instill in his students a love and appreciation for music and provided them with the necessary motivation to reach for and achieve a high level of performance. Those facts were reflected through his quality concerts and special school and divisional events. Dr. Lisik’s concert and jazz bands have routinely achieved triple gold status at [regional and national] music festivals. Several of Dr. Lisik’s gifted high school students pursued studies in music at the university level, supported with scholarships. Further, Dr. Lisik’s talent and creativity were evidenced by his original music composition successfully, programmed and performed by his students.

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Former High School Student

Murdoch MacKay Collegiate (Winnipeg, Canada)


Every graduating high school student can tell you something that has made their experience memorable. For me, this experience was jazz band at Murdoch MacKay. When I first arrived at MMCI, I was not expecting a lot. I figured that when you come to high school you do your work and leave at the end of the day. And for all of grade nine, that is what I did. I had no special events, nothing special to me, nothing memorable. I thought it would be an intelligent move if I decided to join band again. I could get an extra credit and one of my close friends was in band. I had three years experience playing instruments so I thought it would be easy to play percussion. When I went to the band room and ventured inside, I first met Dave Lisik.


It was about a week into grade ten and I had been attending band on a regular basis when Mr. Lisik pulled me aside after class and said to me. "Have you ever played the drum set?" I was confused. I had fooled around on sets that friends of mine had owned, but I had never actually played one before. "No." I replied. Dave then said to me, "Here, try this." This was my first encounter with the swing pattern. I sat down at the set and played what he had just done on the ride cymbal. "Can you come here at lunch time?" Dave asked me. I was scared of what I might get myself into. "Yes." I said, knowing already about the jazz band that met every lunch hour. "What just happened?" I thought to myself. Now I won't have a lunch hour anymore. But I was there the very next day.


I had played with the MMCI Jazz Band One for a year already and playing was a huge part of my life. I loved the drum set, and was forever grateful to Dave Lisik for introducing me to my newfound love. I went to the band room everyday for lessons with Dave. By now, we were on a first name basis. He didn't really teach like a teacher, he would teach like a friend. And use vocabulary that all of us understood. He pushed us, some may say a little too hard at times, but we caught on. And eventually I had become part of a trio as well as the jazz band. Dave taught us to teach ourselves and made us better players. "Don't practice until you get it right." He'd say to us, "Practice until you can't get it wrong."


Dave was not only a good influence in my musical life, he also used to give us these speeches about our high school careers and how we should work in class. A lot of it really stuck with me.

Our jazz band released its first CD when I was in the band. No other school in Winnipeg had professionally recorded a CD. Why did we? Dave Lisik constantly pushed us to achieve ambitious goals. He set it all up for us. We just had to grab it. 


For the rest of my life I will not only remember the time I spent with Dave Lisik, I will enjoy playing the drums forever. And have a truly special memory of my high school experience. Dave Lisik not only influenced my music tastes toward jazz. He influenced my life toward success.

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Former Principal, Murdoch MacKay Collegiate 


Transcona-Springfield School Division

I had the pleasure of hiring Dave Lisik in the summer of 1998 and supervised him from that time to my retirement as principal from Murdoch MacKay in June of 2000. Dave, a new teacher, initially impressed me with the clarity of how he perceived his role and what he wanted to accomplish. He immediately aimed for excellence. His first two years showed that his initial intent would be quickly accomplished. He brought our Concert and Jazz Bands to a very much higher level musically. As a result, our Bands earned several awards both locally and at Musicfest Canada in Toronto. I personally thought so highly of Dave's teaching ability that I asked him to give my own daughter lessons to increase her level of play on her saxophone.


Not everyone agrees with excellence unfortunately, and some initial shocks were registered with some students and their parents. However, Dave sought assistance from me and from our other administrators and these initial obstacles were overcome. Dave recognizes the need to be a team (what a Band is) and he worked toward good solutions to any problem. Students and staff have appreciated Dave's sense of humour and his determination. He was always aiming for the same things: appreciation and enjoyment of music while striving for excellence.


Music and Art Coordinator

Transcona-Springfield School Division

As music and art coordinator for the Transcona-Springfield School Division (Winnipeg, Canada) I had the opportunity to observe and work with Dave Lisik in an administrative capacity. Dave spent five years working with the students, staff, and administration of Murdoch MacKay Collegiate Institute. During that time, he demonstrated excellence and professionalism in all areas of work. With his past educational experiences, knowledge of subject matter, and generosity of personal time beyond the parameters of assigned to duty, he took the Murdoch MacKay music program to new levels of excellence. The level of musical success and quality of groups increased immeasurably. Dave’s jazz bands received gold medals each year they performed at festival. At Musicfest Canada nationals in Toronto, his jazz band and jazz quartet both received Gold. In a relatively short period of time, Dave took a mediocre music program and transformed it into one that gained notice provincially. His success, in jazz studies in particular, produced several of Manitoba top jazz students. Dave composed and arranged original works performed by his concert band, jazz band, and combos. This was extremely beneficial to his students, making them a unique entity within Manitoba and guaranteeing students that the music they perform was not be played by other groups at any given festival.


High School Band Parent

Murdoch MacKay Collegiate (Winnipeg, Canada)

Dave Lisik was my daughter’s music teacher for the four years she was in high school. She has recently graduated and will be pursued a post-secondary education in jazz music. Mr. Lisik gave her the training and confidence to be able to pursue pursue a career that she loves. As a teacher, Mr. Lisik is the type that all parents hope their children will encounter at least once in their lives. A highly trained caring and responsible individual who sees their potential and then challenges them to meet it he gets tirelessly to his students spending many hours beyond what is required of him. Performing the various tasks that lead to a successful music program – teaching, organizing, composing, conducting, fundraising, and even chauffeuring. I was most impressed by the hard work and determination. He showed and conceiving up and bringing to fruition to excellent CDs that the high school jazz band produced. His students, inspired by his commitment and drive, give 110%. I have seen several students in the school who have excelled under his mentorship, and I’ve gone under study music at the University level. In my opinion, you could not find a finer educator than Mr. Lisik.


Former High School Student

Murdoch MacKay Collegiate (Winnipeg, Canada)


It was a great educational experience having Dave Lisik as my music teacher as a high school student. Not only did he help to develop my abilities as a musician, but also as an individual. In the classroom, Dave possesses motivational skills unlike any teacher I have encountered. Tasks that often seem insurmountable, became attainable through his vast knowledge of music, particularly jazz, and his encouraging attitude toward all of his students. With his help, many students, including myself, learned new instruments in a matter of months, or even weeks, with enough competency to become key members of the top jazz band. His dedication to teaching does not end in the classroom. Dr. Lisik spent countless hours of his own time, trying to make the students’ experience in the music program a valuable one. The music that he programmed was challenging and his expectations were high, but he was always ready to give one-on-one lessons and conduct sectionals to help further his students' playing abilities. He also composed charts for the big band and spent many hours mixing and editing the annual CDs our school bands released. The result of all that time and expertise that Mr. Lisik gave to the band program meant it could be nothing other than successful. Our jazz bands and combos always attained the highest level of excellence when in competition. Through his teaching, each student had the opportunity to take pride in their own accomplishments as well as those of others. I think that Mr. Lisik was one of the most skilled and qualified jazz educators in the province.


Middle School Jazz Parent

Arthur Day Middle School (Winnipeg, Canada)


Dave Lisik opened new doors for each of our children and brought them to new heights in the music, their education, and appreciation. His passion for jazz overflowed into our children, who in turn lit up our homes. He strengthened their desire to excel and diversify in the school music program. He is encouraging beyond measure and challenged them to go for the gold. The gold award trophy from the Optimist Jazz Festival spoke volumes in itself. Mr. Lisik's diligent efforts of challenge, changed the lives of these young people. I could feel the love for him in the room the night of the spring concert.


Mr. Lisik took the time to establish a much-needed bridge between the middle school and the high school. I would truly like to commend Dave Lisik on his commitment to excellence as a director of music. I counted it as a privilege to have had my son under his direction and a joy to have come to know him during those years.

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