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New England Conservatory Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Jazz Studies in 2009-10

United States
Two Weeklong Series of Concerts in Boston and New York Feature Distinguished Faculty, Alumni, Students

Headliner Performance at NEC Stars Wayne Shorter Quartet with NEC Philharmonia

Clinics, Community Events Take the Festivities into Schools, Neighborhoods

April 27, 2009 — New England Conservatory will celebrate the 40th Anniversary of its first-in-the-nation Jazz Studies program during the 2009-10 academic year. Spotlighting some of NEC’s distinguished alumni, faculty and students, the festivities will be centered on a week each of ticketed and free concerts in Boston and New York City as well as clinics and community events surrounding the concerts. The Boston centerpiece will be the performance of the Wayne Shorter Quartet with NEC’s Philharmonia on October 24, 2009 in NEC’s Jordan Hall. Shorter is creating new charts for his collaboration with the Philharmonia and conductor Hugh Wolff.

NEC’s Boston celebrations kick off October 18 and will feature nightly ticketed concerts at venues including the Western Front, Regattabar, Scullers Jazz Club, and NEC’s Jordan Hall. In addition to the Wayne Shorter performance, the weekend will be highlighted by an All-Star Jam with the NEC Jazz Orchestra, October 23 in NEC’s Jordan Hall. Among confirmed artists for that program are Bob Brookmeyer, Danilo Perez, Roger Kellaway, Carl Atkins, Fred Hersch, Don Byron, Ran Blake, and Rachael Price with more to come. In addition, there will be public masterclasses and numerous free concerts featuring student groups at various off-campus locations.

NEC’s Community Performances and Partnerships department will also be organizing a variety of concerts and clinics throughout the Boston area to connect with jazz lovers and performers of all ages.

The New York City celebrations take place March 21—27, 2010 with the centerpiece at B.B. King Blues Club on March 27. Headliners confirmed for that performance are Jon Medeski, Regina Carter, Fred Hersch, Harvey Mason, Don Byron, Carl Atkins, and Ran Blake. Other venues are Birdland, Blue Note, the Jazz Standard, and Dizzy’s. Performers for those concerts will be announced shortly.

The first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory, NEC’s program was the brainchild of Gunther Schuller, the jazz historian, horn player, composer, author, and conductor. Principal Horn in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at age 19, Schuller had discovered Duke Ellington as a teenager and pronounced jazz as important as classical music. Named President of the Conservatory in 1967, he moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum. By September 1969, he had gotten his unprecedented program approved by the National Association of Schools of Music and began offering classes. Closely allied to the Jazz Studies program was his Third Stream department, which came along a few years later and which linked classical and jazz into a new genre.

Schuller chose his jazz faculty with a connoisseur’s discernment. The first department chair was saxophonist Carl Atkins. Composer George Russell, who conceived the Lydian Chromatic Concept (which has importantly influenced jazz greats from Miles Davis to Maria Schneider), began a Conservatory association that continued until his death in July 2009, when he was Distinguished Artist-in-Residence Emeritus. Pianist Jaki Byard, called a “walking encyclopedia of jazz,” brought his eclecticism and generosity of spirit to his NEC teaching. And Ran Blake, who Schuller had discovered pushing a broom at Atlantic Records, came to NEC in 1968 and became the first chair of the Third Stream Department in 1974.

During the early years of Jazz at NEC, Atkins formed a trio composed of Donald Pate on, bass, Harvey Mason on drums, and Ron Fransen on piano. With Atkins as saxophonist and coach, the group toured jazz festivals recruiting students and attracting national attention to the new NEC program. Among the earliest students to enroll were Stanton Davis and Ricky Ford. Brought in by Ran Blake, Ford fronted the house band at Wally’s Café while playing in Jaki Byard’s big band and Schuller’s repertory band at the Conservatory. “My participation in the NEC jazz ensemble under Jaki’s direction prepared me for entrée into the Ellington Orchestra,” Ford has recalled.

By the time Schuller retired as President of NEC in 1977, the list of jazz graduates was already impressive. They included Anthony Coleman (who has returned to teach at NEC), Marty Ehrlich, Fred Hersch, Jerome Harris, Michael Moore, and Bo Winiker.

Throughout the history of NEC’s Jazz Studies program, the faculty has continued to be distinguished by its wide range of important artists including trumpeter John McNeil; saxophonists Jimmy Giuffre, Steve Lacy, and Joe Allard; drummer Bob Moses; bassist Dave Holland; trombonist-composer-arranger Bob Brookmeyer; pianists Michael Cain and Stanley Cowell; and guitarists Gene Bertoncini, Chuck Wayne and Jack Wilkins. Vocalist Dominique Eade, who graduated in 1984, then became the first jazz performer to receive an NEC Artist Diploma in 1989, joined the faculty and has been a magnet for gifted young singers. Several, like Kris Adams, Luciana Souza, Lisa Thorson and Patrice Williamson, have gone on to prestigious careers.

So illustrious is NEC’s jazz faculty that four of the most eminent have received MacArthur “Genius” grants (Lacy, Russell, Blake, and Schuller). In addition, Schuller, Brookmeyer, Russell, and Ron Carter have all been named NEA Jazz Masters.

Similarly, prominent alumni of NEC reads like a Who’s Who of Jazz and includes: Bruce Barth, Regina Carter, Freddy Cole, Marilyn Crispell, Marty Ehrlich, Ricky Ford, Satoko Fujii, Jerome Harris, Fred Hersch, Roger Kellaway, Mat Maneri, Harvey Mason, Andy McGhee, Bill McHenry, John Medeski, Vaughn Monroe, Michael Moore, Hankus Netsky, Jamie Saft, George Schuller, Luciana Souza, Chris Speed, Cecil Taylor, Cuong Vu, Phil Wilson, Bo Winiker, Bernie Worrell, Rachel Z, Rachael Price, Richie Barshay, and Bridget Kearney.

For further information on Jazz 40 at NEC, http://necmusic.edu/jazz40

About New England Conservatory

Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 750 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world. Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide. Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions. On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors. Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 100-year old, beautifully restored concert hall. These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes. Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of “From the Top,” a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.
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