As a testament to Joel Spencers performance skills, a great number of musical relationships developed into offers to tour the U.S. and Europe performing with major jazz artists such as pianists Earl œFatha Hines, Hank Jones, and Cedar Walton; guitarists Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell, and Herb Ellis; bassists Eddie Gomez, and Buster Williams; vocalists Cissy Houston, Billy Eckstine, Mark Murphy, and Bobby Scott; trumpeters Red Rodney, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, and Freddie Hubbard; saxophonists Sonny Stitt, Benny Golson, Joe Henderson, Eddie Harris, Wayne Shorter, and David Liebman.
As a professional Joel Spencer has performed with a diverse variety of musical artists. Whether the call was for an extended engagement with the Count Basie Orchestra at the upscale Rainbow Grill in NYC, a filmed performance with jazz vocalist Eddie Jefferson, a national TV appearance with vocalist Barbra Streisand on the Oprah Winfrey Show, or a soundtrack for a major motion picture featuring pop vocalist Barry Manilow, the highest level of instrumental virtuosity and musical versatility was required of Spencer in each of these demanding musical environments.
Spencers formal training as a percussionist (paired with drum set performance) has resulted in numerous appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra featuring such artists as vocal stylist Michael Feinstein, Broadway vocalists Patti Lupone and Kristin Chenoweth, trumpeter Doc Severinsen, and featured performances, recordings, and tour dates with former Chicago Symphony conductor and world-renowned piano recitalist Daniel Barenboim.
From 1985-2005 Spencer greatly succeeded in the competitive studio recording industry in Chicago where he recorded hundreds of national TV product commercials, movie soundtracks, and over 50 nationally/internationally released jazz recordings.
Outside of Spencers career as a performer he serves as a full-time instructor in the nationally recognized Jazz Performance Degree Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In 2020 Spencer was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with Indefinite Tenure and chosen as a recipient of a Campus Distinguished Promotion Award.
During 2021 Spencer performed on seven recording sessions with internationally known vocalist/guitarist Mark Tremonti (of famed rock groups Creed and Alter Bridge) at Palisades Studios in Chicago. The sessions produced the recording Mark Tremonti Sings Frank Sinatrareleased in May of 2022 on Janus Music Records. Tremonti and the studio orchestra have performed sold-out shows in Orlando and in London at Indigo at The O2.
Joel Spencers career as a jazz artist continues to provide him with an extensive palette of performances and recordings, as he has performed with artists from virtually every era and genre of jazz.
I feel my role demands a dual responsibility: teacher and mentor. Not only must I share my valuable performance experiences as a professional musician, but also ensure that students develop the creative skills and techniques necessary to succeed artistically in the everchanging musical landscape of the 21st century.