A history of Jazz Studies at New England Conservatory, 1969-2009: the legacy of Gunther Schuller
Calkins, Susan Lee
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Over the first half of the twentieth century, the jazz rose from its modest beginnings as a trenchantly African-American style of folk music, to assume a place of cultural noteworthiness. The field of jazz education has evolved significantly since the mid twentieth century and jazz studies programs have been established in many colleges and schools around the world. Music educators have continued to face the challenge of how to preserve the stylistic foundations of jazz while approaching it, pedagogically, as an evolving art form that extends beyond its African-American origins. A wide variety of issues concerning jazz education and the integration of emerging musical styles in educational institutions have been studied, yet very little research of a historical nature has been conducted so far to address these topics. This study presents a historical examination of the Jazz Studies program at New England Conservatory of Music, including events leading up to its 1969 inception and its development through 2009. Topics of inquiry included: Gunther Schuller's vision of jazz education and what led him to incorporate jazz at NEC; actions leading to the establishment of the Jazz Studies degree program; the structures, curriculum and goals of the program and how they changed over time; and how the jazz program has influenced or been influenced by the institution as a whole. The researcher was informed by data from interviews of students, faculty and administrators and archival data from a variety of sources. Interview subjects included Gunther Schuller, students and faculty who participated in the Jazz Studies program. Archival data was abstracted from NEC documents including Executive Committee and Faculty Council meeting minutes, concert programs, school catalogues, and correspondences located in the NEC archives in addition to other published articles. By revealing the successes and the pitfalls of Gunther Schuller's initiatives and investigating the key figures, processes, and actions that facilitated the establishment of a degree program in Jazz Studies at NEC, this study serves as a historical example. It may also serve to illuminate potential challenges and issues that will surface as new developments in the musical arts create demands for further innovations in post-secondary music education.
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