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Director of Bands
Coordinator of Music Education

Dr. Samuels returned to her alma mater in 2019 as Director of Bands and Coordinator of Music Education Studies. Prior to Furman, she was Director of Visual and Performing Arts at Randolph School in Huntsville, Alabama and served for 14 years as Director of Bands at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her responsibilities included teaching and administering the Marching Blazers, the Wind Symphony, the Symphony Band, and the Blazer Band, as well as teaching courses in conducting and music education. During her time at UAB, the Marching Blazers more than doubled in number, performed nationally and internationally before tens of thousands, and garnered a reputation as one of the outstanding college marching bands in the southeast. In addition, Dr. Samuels created the UAB All-Star Band Festival which served more than 300 high school students from Alabama each fall, and more than 600 young musicians were served at the annual Middle School and High School Honor Band festivals each December. 

Under Dr. Samuels’ direction, the UAB Wind Symphony performed at local and regional festivals including the Alabama Music Educators State Conference, the Southern Division of the College Band Directors National Association, and the Grainger Festival in Chicago, Illinois.

   Ph.D., Music Education, Auburn University
​​   M.M., Conducting, Georgia State University
   Eastman School of Music
   B.M., Music Education, Furman University

Dr. Samuels’ teaching experience prior to her arrival at UAB includes 12 years at Lassiter High School in Marietta Georgia, 1 year as Assistant Director of Bands at the University of Georgia, and 2 years as Director of Bands at WT Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia. Under her direction, all bands she conducted received straight superior ratings at festivals over her 14-year career as a high school band director. In addition, the bands at both Lassiter and Woodson performed at the Bands of America National Concert Band Festival, and the Lassiter Band won the 1998 Marching Band Grand National Championships. 

In addition to her work as a band director, Dr. Samuels enjoys being a mom to her beautiful son, Andrew, whom she adopted from Ethiopia in 2010.


Jay Bocook, director of Athletic Bands

A native of Clearwater, Fla., Furman alum Jay Bocook is recognized internationally as a composer, arranger, conductor and educator. Bocook's work has been performed at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2003, his music transcriptions of noted film composer John Williams were premiered by the U.S. Marine Band in a concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. An encore performance with Williams and the "President's Own" took place in 2008. In addition, Bocook was a contributing arranger to a musical called "CyberJam" that opened to rave reviews in 2003 at London's Queens Theater. His arrangements were also featured in "Mix," which opened in 2008 in Japan.

In 1982, Bocook was appointed director of bands at Furman. He left the school in 1989 to pursue other opportunities, but returned in 2000 as director of athletic bands. He has served as assistant conductor of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and remains a principal composer and arranger for Hal Leonard Corporation, where he has published over 600 compositions and arrangements. He is the music arranger for the 10-time World Champion Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps. In 2009, Bocook was inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the American Bandmasters Association.

  M.M.E., University of Louisiana
  B.M., Furman University

Partial list of honors:

  • American Bandmasters Association
  • Drum Corps International Hall of Fame
  • South Carolina Band Directors Association Hall of Fame
  • Phi Beta Mu Outstanding Bandmaster Phi Beta Mu Outstanding Contributor to Music Center for Russian & East European Studies Research, Internship and Fellowship award (2004)
  • National Band Association Citation of Excellence


Matt Olson, D.M.A.
Coordinator of Jazz Studies

Equally at home as a jazz and classical saxophonist, Conn-Selmer and D’Addario Endorsing Artist Matt Olson is Professor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies at Furman. He hails from Racine, Wisconsin, and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Illinois, and a Master of Music degree in Jazz Pedagogy and Bachelor of Music degree in Saxophone Performance from Northwestern University. 

Dr. Olson’s professional work includes performances with Randy Brecker, Chris Potter, Kurt Elling, Benny Carter, Wayne Bergeron, Jeff Coffin, John Fedchock, Jason Marsalis, Byron Stripling, Ken Peplowski, Kevin Mahogany, Doc Severinsen, Ryan Keberle, Andy Martin, Wycliffe Gordon, Chris Vadala, Manhattan Transfer, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Bernadette Peters, Lou Rawls, Michael Feinstein, Johnny Mathis, Ben Folds, Bob Newhart, Wayne Newton, the Temptations, the Four Tops, children’s entertainer Shari Lewis, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. His performances have taken him to the Montreal Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall, and Chicago’s Jazz Showcase and Orchestra Hall. 

Olson is a founding member and co-leader of the Unhinged Sextet, a collaborative jazz sextet dedicated to the recording of original compositions. The group features educators from a number of key music schools throughout the United States. Unhinged’s two recordings on OA2 Records, Clarity (2015) and Don’t Blink (2017), have received worldwide radio airplay and numerous positive reviews. Olson’s self-produced debut jazz recording, Vortex, was released in 2006, and his latest recording, an organ trio project entitled 789 Miles, was released on OA2 Records in June 2019.  He has been a featured guest artist at Northwestern University, Arizona State University, the University of Chicago, the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the University of Idaho, and high schools throughout the United States. He has published articles in both Downbeat magazine and The Saxophone Symposium, and eJazzlines publishes Matt's original compositions for large jazz ensemble. 

Olson is active nationally as a clinician and adjudicator. He has presented clinics at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, the Jazz Education Network Conference, and the South Carolina Music Educators Association conference. He holds memberships in a variety of professional music societies including the North American Saxophone Alliance, Jazz Education Network, National Association for Music Education, BMI, Pi Kappa Lambda, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. ​​

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Omar Carmenates, D.M.A.

Omar Carmenates is currently the Associate Professor of Percussion at Furman University in Greenville, SC where he oversees all aspects of the percussion program including classical, jazz, and world percussion studies. He holds a Doctor of Music degree from Florida State University, a Master of Music Degree in Percussion Performance from the University of North Texas, and a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Central Florida. 

  D.M., Florida State University
  M.M., University of North Texas
  B.M., University of Central Florida

Dr. Carmenates is also versatile performer with a strong interest in contemporary solo and chamber music. His debut solo CD, entitled The Gaia Theory, is released through Rattle Records and features premiere recordings of works by Scott Lindroth, John Psathas, Christopher Adler, David Skidmore, Christopher Deane, and Brian Nozny. Dr. Carmenates can also be heard on the Cantaloupe Records release of John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit for 9-99 percussionists, a work that he both cocommissioned and directed in its United States premiere. Forthcoming recordings also include a double-disc release entitled The John Psathas Percussion Project, featuring percussion arrangements of works by New Zealand’s most renowned composer, John Psathas, as well as a collaboration with Furman Univesity’s David E. Shi Center for Sustainability to record Matthew Burtner’s Six Ecoacoustic Quintets with the Furman Percussion Ensemble. Dr. Carmenates is a proud endorser/artist for Grover Pro Percussion, Vic Firth, Inc. Remo Drumheads, Sabian Cymbals, and Pearl Corporation/Adams Musical Instruments.

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