The Empire Jazz Orchestra is a professional jazz ensemble in residence at SUNY Schenectady County Community College. Founded in 1992, the EJO is dedicated to the performance of quality ensemble music from all eras of jazz. The EJO is conducted by Dr. William Meckley, former dean of the SUNY Schenectady School of Music, and features numerous SUNY Schenectady music faculty members and alumni, including Brett Wery, Brian Patneaude, Cliff Brucker and Keith Pray '93.
The orchestra is comprised of many of the Capital Region's finest professional musicians. The EJO also features major jazz artists as guest soloists. Guest artists have
included Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Slide Hampton, the late Nick Brignola, former Blood Sweat and Tears trumpeter Lew Soloff, The Four Freshmen, and Saxophonist Mark
Repertoire of the EJO ranges from early works of Jelly Roll Morton and Joe "King" Oliver to the commissioning of new music for big band. The orchestra is especially noted for
its performances of original scores of important composers and arrangers such as Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Charles
Mingus, Oliver Nelson, and numerous others.
In 2018 the EJO's newest cd, Finale was released. The recording features live performances of the Empire Jazz Orchestra from past to present.
In 2016 the EJO released its sixth CD, “Out of the Mist,” which includes the premiere recording of Johnny Richards’ 1962 masterwork of the same title. The CD is the first studio recording of the EJO and features the great Ray Vega on trumpet as guest soloist on music by Machito, Chick Corea, and Lee Morgan. “Out of the Mist” has received wide acclaim and significant airplay on Public Radio International and other jazz radio programming throughout the U.S.
The EJO's other CDs are: Accentuate the Positive; Live and Kickin'; The EJO Plays Ellington; Anniversary; and Symphonies In Riffs.
Dr. William Meckley holds the Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied advanced jazz conducting with Rayburn Wright. He is a recipient of State University of New York Chancellors' Award for Excellence in Teaching and the SUNY Chancellors Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. Cited by Metroland, as one of the Capital Regions' "best" jazz musicians, Dr. Meckley is also an active freelance trombonist and conductor throughout New York and the Eastern United States.