Extraordinary Teachers

Rodney Whitaker


Talent: International jazz double bass performer
Position: University Distinguished Professor of Jazz Bass and Director of Jazz
Organization: Michigan State University
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Passion: Teaching

Rodney Whitaker, a University Distinguished Professor of Jazz Bass and Director of Jazz Studies, heads the Jazz program in Michigan State University’s College of Music. In his more than 15 years at MSU, Whitaker has built the program into one of the leading jazz degree programs in the U.S.

Whitaker, a prominent bass performer in his own right, is an internationally renowned Mack Avenue recording artist. He has toured the world over the last twenty-five years, collaborating and performing with legendary jazz artists. Using the “each one, teach one” model, Rodney encourages all of his students to carry the torch for the genre.


“As a young jazz musician, my mentors instilled in me early on that it is part of my responsibility to carry the music on, to teach the next generation.”

Rodney is part of the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) Jazz Artist in Residence program, which brings in high caliber guest artists that can often only be seen in New York, Paris and Chicago, to work with the students.


“Imagine that you’re a young student and you’re choosing your university, and you look at Michigan State. You see that MSU brings four signature artists in addition to their acclaimed faculty, to campus every year. This becomes the place you want to call home.”

Committed to educating others in the genre, Whitaker has presented numerous master classes across the nation at locations including Duke University, Howard University, University of Michigan and others. Whitaker is also a consultant with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and has served on the faculties of University of Michigan and Julliard Institute of Jazz.

Photo Note: Rodney Whitaker, Michigan State University