New Faces: Music welcomes new Director of Jazz Studies

New Faces in Music: Richard Giddens Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities

The College of Arts and Humanities at Fresno State is the largest college on campus, encompassing nine departments, and the Armenian Studies Program.

Each year, new faculty are brought on to elevate the academic offerings here at Fresno State. These new faculty members bring innovative research, diverse fields of study and technical expertise to our college, inspiring new ways of thinking throughout our many disciplines.

Over the next few weeks, we will introduce you to these new faces, by department.

Department of Music

Richard Giddens playing bassRichard Giddens has been promoted within the Department of Music as the new Director of Jazz Studies, transitioning from his former position as a Fresno State professor of music.

Giddens’s specialty areas include jazz string bass and jazz combo.

“A highly skilled performer and teacher with international performance experience, Richard brings tremendous energy to our department and we are very excited about having him join us as our new Director of Jazz Studies,” said Dr. Matthew Darling, chair of the Department of Music.

A Fresno native bassist, Giddens has performed throughout the world with artists such as Charlie Haden, STOMP, Ben Wendel, Walter Smith III, The Lost and Found Orchestra, Robert Glasper, Wadada Leo Smith, Larry Goldings, Ideal Bread, Burning Ghosts, Joe LaBarbara, Mary Halvorson and many others. He is also a Tzadik and Orenda Records recording artist with debut album “Mimosas” featuring Matt Otto, Adam Benjamin, Storm Nilson and Tomas Fujiwara out now.

Question: What are you most looking forward to as Director of Jazz Studies?

Answer: I most look forward to leading our program into a new era where Fresno State will be a destination for young jazz musicians to explore and find their voices as artists.

Q: How did you become involved in your specialty area?

A: I received a bass for Christmas from my sister’s (then) boyfriend when I was in 8th grade. I asked Rick Canfield if I could be in the jazz band at Bullard TALENT, he said yes. Then, Steve Alcala, the director of the jazz bands at Roosevelt School of the Arts, heard me play at Les Nunes’ jazz festival and asked if I would consider going to Roosevelt. I told him that I couldn’t play or read and he said, “Don’t worry. I’ll teach you.” That was kind of it! I started working and “studying” with some of the best musicians in town, which then lead me to NYC when I was 17.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the music program at Fresno State?

A: I thoroughly enjoy teaching, learning from and hanging with the students, faculty and staff. It’s the people that make this program and this university great!

Q: What will your distinctive background do to elevate the Music Department offerings here at Fresno State?

A: I aim to lead by example. I have been doing this professionally since I was 15 and supporting myself as a musician since I was 19; the same age group of most of my students here at Fresno State. I have been incredibly fortunate to perform, record and become friends with some of the best musicians in the world. I plan to bring in many of these artists to inspire and play music for/with the students here at Fresno State.

Q: What’s a fun fact that people might not know about you?

A: I once received a private acting lesson from Sean Penn after he saw me play at a house party with a rock band in Memphis, TN.

Q: What is a favorite piece of advice you would like to give students in your specialty area?

A: Love the music, because once you love the music, you stop trying and start doing. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, they are an integral part of the experience.

Q: When are your office hours?


Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: I have a lovely fiancé named Angela and two beautiful cats named King Montezuma (Monte) and Raffaella.

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