Travis Wesley

Pianist, Recording Artist, Recording Engineer, Composer, Educator & Musicologist




A fixture in the Midwest where his trio appears regularly, pianist Travis Wesley Hoover is heard at his best on his new album, Cycle By Three. While Travis Wesley’s previous CD,  Natural Diversion paid tribute to such pianists as Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Erroll Garner and Ahmad Jamal, Cycle By Three is a giant step forward. His playing is strikingly original and his interplay with bassist Toby Curtright and drummer Tom Marko during a program filled with colorful originals is consistently impressive.

Travis was born and raised in Bloomington, Illinois. “I was 10 or 11 when I started taking formal piano lessons,” remembers Travis. “At the time I played Chopin, Bach, Bartok, Mozart and much of the traditional piano repertoire. I discovered jazz through my piano teacher. She exposed me to some swing, ragtime and boogie-woogie tunes when I was 12. That led me to exploring other eras of jazz piano.”

After graduating from high school, Travis attended the Berklee College of Music for a year, working at his first professional gigs while a student. Moving back to Central Illinois, he led a quartet of his own and played regularly in clubs for several years while attending Eastern Illinois University. He earned a Bachelors degree in music with a jazz studies emphasis, became a teaching assistant in the jazz studies department, and in 2005 completed his Masters degree.  On May 13, 2017 Travis completed his Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree in jazz performance from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, with a minor in musicology and piano pedagogy.

“One of my most important musical association as a sideman was playing with saxophonist Willie Akins in St. Louis during 2004-06. My wife and I moved to St. Louis where I worked with Willie in his quartet.  It was a monumental experience for me. I learned a great deal about the music and also about the business from Willie. I had the opportunity to play with high-level players in his group, and also worked with other excellent musicians in the St. Louis area. I also led my own trio. During my last year of my Masters degree, I commuted between Charleston, Illinois and St. Louis, a two hour drive several nights a week to work with Willie and his quartet, and it was a wonderful experience.”

Since moving back to Illinois, Travis has worked in recent times with Glenn Wilson, Kevin Hart, Tom Marko, Matt Hughes, Frieda Lee, Jeff Helgesen, Darden Purcell, Shawn Purcell, Margaret Murphy, Ron Jones, Ben Wheeler,Tim Brickner, Chip McNeil, Jeff Magby, Cory Flanigan, Andy Crawford, Jay Sawyer, Frank Parker and Carlos Vega.  He has led professional ensembles for 20 years in addition to recording two, recent albums, Natural Diversion (2012) and most recently, Cycle By Three (2013).

Travis is a music instructor at Heartland Community College in Normal, IL and maintains a private piano studio. He is an active educator and clinician throughout the Midwest and writes about various topics involving American music and its roots on his blog.  Travis is also writing a college textbook on Folk, Blues, Jazz and Rock music for Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.  Travis demonstrates on his new record, Cycle By Three and during his many performance engagements that he is one of the most promising jazz talents to be found in the Midwest, a pianist whose music is always worth hearing.



Bio written by Scott Yanow, author of ten books including The Jazz Singers, Trumpet Kings, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76