Dr. Robert Sears enjoys an active career balancing his love of teaching and performing as both a classical and jazz musician. He joined the faculty at West Virginia University in the Fall of 2020 as an Assistant Professor of Trumpet and previously held teaching positions at Millikin University, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, and the University of Illinois Springfield.
Previous performance engagements include being a substitute with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra (regular 2nd/3rd trumpet sub from 2021-present), extra with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra, extra with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, second trumpet in the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra (2019-2020), member of Sycamore Brass (2018-2020), founding member of the Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective and Iron Post Jazz Orchestra, and substitute with the Heartland Festival Orchestra, Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia da Camera Chamber Orchestra, and Urbana Pops Orchestra. Dr. Sears has been a featured soloist with West Virginia University's Wind Symphony (2022), Millikin University's Wind Ensemble (2019), Illinois Wesleyan University’s Wind Ensemble (2018), the University of Illinois Summer Band (2017 and 2016), and Brigham Young University-Idaho’s Symphony Band at the 2014 CBDNA conference in Reno, Nevada with the BYU-Idaho Faculty Brass Quintet. Dr. Sears has also performed alongside jazz artists Chip Stephens, Glenn Wilson, Jeff Halsey, Mark Tonelli, Jim Pugh, John Clayton, Ernie Watts, Doc Severinsen, and his esteemed colleagues at WVU Alton Merrell, Jared Sims, Brian Wolfe, and Paul Thompson. In both 2019 and 2018, he was a featured soloist and clinician at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Jazz Festival, and in 2023, 2021 and 2019 he arranged and recorded horn section parts for various EP releases with gospel, R&B, and soul artist Julius Adams.
Dr. Sears can be heard on numerous recording projects including NewStream Brass' debut album A Step Forward to be released on Mon Hills Records (coming February 15, 2024) where two of his original compositions Minor Detail and Green Street are featured, Dillinger: An American Oratorio released on Navona Records (2023), Julius Adams' single Healer (2023), Brazilian bassist Andrey Gonçalves' album Nocturnal Geometries (2020), the Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective’s debut EP (2019), Indy rock, soul guitarist, and vocalist Dan Hubbard’s album Attention (2019), Transit Brass’ debut album Soundscapes (2018), where two of his original compositions Breathe and To the Stars were featured, and Astral Canticle (2015) released under Nimbus Records with the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra.
Over the summer Dr. Sears serves as the director of WVU's Summer Brass Academy, a week-long camp for graduating 8th-12th grade brass students. The camp is designed to help students develop their technical ability, interpretive skills, and increase their understanding of a variety of genres and musical styles through masterclasses, private practice time, and individual lessons. Dr. Sears has also served as trumpet faculty at Illinois Summer Youth Music and the Fredericksburg Brass Institute.
In addition to performing and teaching, Dr. Sears is an avid composer and arranger, having studied jazz composition and arranging with Chip McNeill, former musical director for both Maynard Ferguson and Arturo Sandoval’s bands. Some of Dr. Sears’ music can be purchased through his e-music publishing company Soundscape Music Press.
Dr. Sears' research and dissertation Compositional Elements in the Music of Ken Schaphorst: A Detailed Analysis of Four Works for Jazz Ensemble highlights compositional components found in four original pieces by Ken Schaphorst: Jobim, Uprising, Mbira 2, and How to Say Goodbye. The analysis sheds light on extensive motivic and thematic development, the interpretation of sonata form in big band jazz composition, the mechanics of creating extended solo features, effective groove changes that aid development, unique voicings and instrument pairing choices, and other innovative musical devices. This research aims to prove informative and useful for both aspiring and seasoned composers and arrangers.
Dr. Sears holds a B.M. in Music Education from Brigham Young University-Idaho, an M.M. in Trumpet Performance and Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a D.M.A. in Jazz Performance, with a cognate in Classical Performance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His primary trumpet instructors include Tito Carrillo, Charles Daval, Ronald Romm, Dr. Ryan Nielsen, Dr. K. Newell Dayley, and David Evans.
Photo by Amber Hunter