Marian E. Smith Award, Distinguished Faculty Address, Regents Professor
 
Greg Yasinitsky’s office conveys a lot about him. The Meyer Distinguished Professor of music’s office is flooded with natural light and is furnished with a piano, a keyboard, four saxophones in varying ranges and a clarinet.
 
The walls are adorned with shelves housing CDs, tapes, records, sheet music and even old reel-to-reel recordings. Sandwiched between his framed degrees and awards are pictures of him with jazz greats like Louie Bellson, Clark Terry and Lionel Hampton.
 
This fascination with music and jazz has inspired Yasinitsky’s many accomplishments, including recent WSU honors as recipient of the 2007 Marian E. Smith Faculty Achievement Award, selection a
s presenter of the 2008 Distinguished Faculty Address and promotion to Regents professor.
 
Yet it all seemingly comes naturally for Yasinitsky, who can remember from a young age wanting to be a musician.
 
“I spend just about every waking moment thinking about music. I thought other people were like that too, but I realized I am just odd. I would have been really unhappy doing anything else.”
 
Born and raised in San Francisco, Yasinitsky grew up surrounded by music — from attending symphonies and operas to playing for the likes of Sarah Vaughn, Bob Hope and Ella Fitzgerald when they came to town and needed musicians.
 
While working in the Bay Area jazz scene, Yasinitsky decided to attend San Francisco State University to study music composition. After graduate school, he taught at San Jose State University before moving to Pullman to help develop WSU’s music program.
 
Despite not being what he calls a “rural guy,” Yasinitsky has flourished during his 25 years at WSU, creating an extensive body of musical compositions and arrangements that are widely published and performed the world over.
 
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers has awarded him more than 20 special awards.
 
“Every year, when the new publishing catalogs arrive in my mailbox, Greg’s music is always some of the first to check out,” said Miles Osland, professor and director of the jazz studies program at the University of Kentucky. “I have never heard anything insignificant written by the man!”
 
Yasinitsky has led the WSU jazz studies program to national prominence. Jazziz magazine has featured recordings by WSU musicians every year since 2003, when the publication began showcasing the finest jazz studies programs in the nation.
 
“I worked hard to build the jazz program here into an internationally recognized program,” Yasinitsy said. “For starters, the jazz studies faculty increased from just me to seven talented faculty members, and the number of jazz students has grown significantly also.”
 
He also works with local middle schools to arrange music for bands. And anyone who has dropped by Rico’s smokehouse in downtown Pullman for a night of music will recall Yasinitsky center stage performing with fellow musicprofessors.
 
“Some people have a ‘straight job’ and then they cram their hobbies in on the weekend,” he said. “I get to do what I love all the time.”
 
Yasinitsky sees his recent awards from the university as a much deserved recognition for the arts.“This is a statement from the university that the arts are important — or maybe they just want to hear music for a change,” he chuckled.
 
Yasinitsky remains in awe of the talent surrounding him at WSU. Possibly best of all, he gets inspiration from his wife, Ann Marie Yasinitsky, clinical professor of music.
 
“She’s the best musician I know,” he said. “There’s nobody who sounds better than my wife does.”
 
About the Smith award
 
It honors faculty who demonstrate WSU’s high regard for meritorious teaching, which includes enthusiasm, innovative lectures, ability to stimulate students to learn and concern for students.