Michael Allemana appointed Director of the Jazz Ensemble

Michael Allemana headshot


photo: Liina Raud

Michael Allemana has been appointed the Director of the Jazz Ensemble. Having recently served as a Humanities Teaching Fellow and having earned his PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago, Allemana has been a part of the Department of Music community for some time. Allemana's recent album Vonology, an artistic tribute to tenor sax titan Von Freeman, has received great attention from the press, including an in-depth story on the project on the Chicago Tribune website. Allemana's performance of the album's eponymous work at this year's Chicago Jazz Festival was featured in Jazz Festival previews from the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, and the Chicago Reader.

We're pleased to welcome Michael Allemana as the new Director of the Jazz Ensemble!

Michael Allemana holding a guitar

Born and raised in Elmhurst, IL, Mike started playing guitar at the age of 8. When he was 12, His guitar teacher at Perry’s Music in Villa Park, IL introduced the music of George Benson to him and the passion for jazz guitar was born. In high school he performed all four years in the York High School Jazz Band, directed by Kurt Merrill, which inspired him to music as a career. He enrolled at Northern Illinois University, where he studied with Bobby Roberts and Fareed Haque. After earning a B.M. in Jazz Performance in 1991, Mike spent two years in Cincinnati, spending many nights hanging with and learning from local guitar greats Cal Collins and Kenny Poole. In 1994 he returned to Chicago and quickly became part of the city’s growing jazz scene.

photo: Alan Frohlichstein

Mike’s first steady gig came in 1995 with local tenor sax legend, Lin Halliday, performing Thursdays at the Deja Vu, the first club owned by Dave Jemilo, owner of the famed Green Mill. Soon after, Charles Earland asked Mike to join his Chicago quartet with drummer Greg Rockingham and saxophonist Frank Catalano. During his two-year tenure with Earland, Mike performed on Earland’s 1997 release The Jazz Organ Summit with Dr. Lonnie Smith and Johnny “Hammond” Smith as well as “organ battles” with Earland and Dr. Lonnie at the Green Mill. Mike had also been an avid follower of Von Freeman since 1990, sitting in at Freeman’s famous Tuesday night jam session at the New Apartment Lounge on Chicago’s South Side. In 1997, Von Freeman asked Mike to join his group at the New Apartment Lounge, a tenure that lasted until Freeman’s passing in 2012. While with Freeman, Mike toured to Berlin in 2002, which was released as Vonski Speaks on Nessa Records in 2009, and recorded on Von Freeman’s 2002 release The Improvisor on Premonition Records. Read more.