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Innovative and passionate, Dr. Kendra Wheeler has established herself as a well-known performer, teacher, and scholar. She actively promotes, advocates, and performs a new repertoire, as seen in her modern and diverse programming and commissioning. Composer Ziv Slama has described her playing as: “combining technical ability from the highest levels of saxophone playing and unique levels of expression and interpretation.”
Wheeler has built and maintained a national and international profile as an artist, scholar, and educator. She has appeared at major venues and festivals across North America, South America, and Europe including Chicago Symphony Center (Chicago, IL), Ordway Center for Performing Arts (St. Paul, MN), Capitol Theatre (Yakima, WA), Muzička akademija u Zagrebu (Croatia), New Music Gathering (Portland), Gruss Music Center (Hartford, CT, SPLICE Festival (Detroit, MI), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM (Mexico City, Mexico), and more.
Other appearances include solo recitals, masterclasses, and guest artist residencies at institutions across the United States and Europe, including Virginia Tech, the University of the Republic of Uruguay, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, the University of California Los Angeles, among others. International and nationally renowned organizations and competitions like the Concert Artist Guild (CAG), Vandoren Emerging Artist Competition (VEA), DOWNBEAT Magazine, and Pan-American International Saxophone Competition have recognized Wheeler’s work. Moreover, Wheeler is an active adjudicator for regional, state, and national solo and ensemble competitions, honor bands, and saxophone competitions.
As an advocate for innovation through performance, Dr. Wheeler embraces new mediums for the saxophone through interdisciplinary collaborations and chamber music. Since 2018, she has been a member of Alecto Collective, along with Kakia Gkoudina (composer, electronics, visuals). While often political, Alecto Duo’s work is audiovisual, consisting of elements of contemporary music and cinematic tradition. In addition, she is in a contemporary saxophone duo that explores multimedia and modern works with Dr. Kyle Hutchins. Moreover, Dr. Wheeler is the alto saxophonist in the Medusa Saxophone Quartet, whose mission is to support young, historically excluded saxophonists and composers using performance, educational outreach, and advocacy through the saxophone quartet.
Within her teaching, her pedagogy often engages with and incorporates theories of identity, agency, and intersectionality as a framework for complete musicianship, as it provides critical perspective and aids in informing one's overall musical practice and instruction. She believes utilizing these frameworks is vital to creating inclusive communities and one's ability to attain the highest level of musicianship and pedagogy. She has presented guest lectures on the importance of understanding the intersection of music and identity to be more inclusive musicians and pedagogues at major venues, conferences, and institutions across North America and Europe, including the Jagiellonian University (Kraków, Poland), International Conference on Society and the Arts (Zaragoza, Spain), University of Hartford, Hartt School of Music (Hartford, CT), the International Alliance for Women in Music (Eugene, Oregon), among others. Click here for more information regarding Dr. Wheeler’s DEIBA and scholarship work.
Wheeler’s music and identity focus and research, combined with her keen awareness and understanding of the various intersections of identity, make her a distinguishable musical and pedagogical voice within the field. Regarding her teaching, this allows her students to understand how to best advocate for themselves, develop a strong sense of agency, and become their best teachers, ultimately aiding in their success in every area of their lives: personal, professional, and musical. Regarding performance, this translates to Wheeler’s ability to create an open and inviting musical space, allowing for a deep connection between her and her audience.
Despite a performance and conference itinerary that has covered North America, Latin America, and Europe, Dr. Wheeler has established a thriving teaching career. Dr. Wheeler serves as an Assistant Professor of Saxophone at Central Washington University, where she teaches applied classical saxophone, music theory, and aural skills and courses within the music education curriculum. Previous appointments include serving on the faculty of SUNY Potsdam, in Potsdam, NY, as an adjunct saxophone instructor.
Hailing from Chicago, where she attended the Merit School of Music, studying with Shawn Tracy and Bryan Polacek, Dr. Wheeler then earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota under the study of Eugene Rousseau. She subsequently received a Master of Music from the University of Minnesota, studying with Preston Duncan. She completed her Doctor of Musical Arts in saxophone performance at Michigan State University under Joseph Lulloff.
Kendra is an Eastman Artist, playing the EAS 850 Rue Saint Georges, and a Légère Reeds, Silverstein Works, and Key Leaves performing artist.
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