Don Zentz is currently the Director of Fine & Performing Arts at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, FL. Previously he served as the Music Director of the St. Johns River City Band – Florida’s Official Band – where he has been a saxophonist since 1988. He has held music professorships at the University of North Florida, Valdosta State University, and Florida Community College at Jacksonville. Don and his collegiate jazz ensembles and sax groups performed at many music conferences and jazz festivals over the years, including IAJE and Montreux. Prior to college teaching, Don was a high school and middle school band director in Georgia and at Wolfson Senior High School in Jacksonville. His programs earned superior ratings and championship recognition in all areas of band media – concert, marching, and jazz.
Don received much acclaim for his work and leadership in jazz education particularly during his tenure at the University of North Florida. He was originally hired at UNF by program founder and jazz education pioneer Rich Matteson. Don co-taught the saxophone studio with legendary altoist Bunky Green. As the director of the UNF Jazz Ensemble, Don brought national and international visibility to the jazz program at UNF. The ensemble produced two critically acclaimed CD’s, won the Notre Dame Jazz Festival and National Collegiate Jazz Festival in Mobile, performed at festivals in Europe, and was recognized by DownBeat for “Best Big Band Jazz – Outstanding Performance”. In 1999, DownBeat awarded Don their Jazz Education Achievement Award. UNF had named him an Outstanding Undergraduate Professor in 1996. He also received a TIP Award from the Florida Board of Regents for Excellence in Teaching.
Don is very much in demand as a player, adjudicator, and clinician in both traditional and jazz idioms. He is a per service saxophonist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and works many of the off-Broadway shows that travel into Florida. He has performed in concert with many notables that include Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles, The New York Voices, Natalie Cole, Nancy Wilson, Doc Severinsen, The Manhattan Transfer, and Diane Schuur. Don heads up the musical organization Florida Jazz Plus. He adjudicates extensively each year for the Florida Bandmasters Association and other independent band festivals across the south. He has directed the all-state jazz bands of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Maine, and also the Delaware All-State Symphonic Band. He served as the jazz studies coordinator, music department chair, and wind ensemble director for the Georgia Governors Honors Program during the 1990’s. Don has presented a variety of clinics and master classes at numerous musical events for students and teachers alike. His articles have appeared in professional publications such as The Instrumentalist and Music Educators Journal. As the Florida Unit President of IAJE, Don was responsible for instituting the highly successful State Jazz Workshop in Florida. He is presently enjoying work on a small group solo CD.
Don has been a Keilwerth performing artist and clinician since 1995. His career reveals a deep commitment and passion for both the teaching and performing of music.