Jazz at Holmes: Steve Schenkel, guitar & Kim Portnoy, piano

This alumni feature is in celebration of WUSTL MUSIC’s 75th Anniversary.

Guitarist Steve Schenkel and pianist Kim Portnoy over four decades ago began a lifelong musical collaboration while completing graduate programs in the department of music. Their duo recitals of jazz and new music as well as Portnoy’s composition recitals helped to create a new perspective in the presentation of improvised and composed music in St. Louis. Upon graduation they both proceeded to teach at Webster University in what soon became one of the primary centers for jazz education in performance and composition - and at a time when such programs were still very new.

It was their work as students at Washington University that set the stage for the advent of academic, scholarly and performative activity in jazz studies in St. Louis.  In some large part in the first decades of the program at Webster University, their work contributed to the building of a musical community amongst improvisers of all kinds. 

Steve Schenkel is the guitarist and orchestra manager for the Fox Theater, guitarist for the Muny Opera and the St. Louis Symphony, and a freelance jazz musician. He recently retired after 37 years at Webster University, where he founded the Jazz Studies program, the Webster Jazz Concert Series, and the Jazz Studies/Music Technology program. Steve presently also serves as the Director of Music for First Unity Church of St. Louis.

Kim Portnoy is a composer, arranger, jazz pianist and Director of Composition Studies at Webster University, St. Louis.  His works have been recorded by St. Louis Symphony bass trombonist Gerry Pagano, the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America and Max Jazz artist Christine Hitt.  Portnoy’s new recording, Caprice, features performances of his original chamber music by the Trombones of the St. Louis Symphony, The Arianna String Quartet and other notable St. Louis musicians.  In 2018 Portnoy was awarded one of ten Regional Arts Commission Artist Fellowships.