New England Conservatory’s Jazz Studies Program Celebrates 50th Anniversary with Jazz50 Concerts in Boston and NYC

New England Conservatory (NEC)’s internationally renowned Jazz Studies Department, the first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory, celebrates its 50th anniversary by showcasing the department’s vibrant legacy and its place as one of the top jazz education programs in the world.  A year-long celebration of Jazz50 will include concerts and events in Boston and NYC featuring many of the school’s distinguished jazz alumni, faculty, students and special guests. 

Boston events will include the NEC Jazz Orchestra with Alan Pasqua (alum) and Antonio Sanchez (alum) led by the department’s first chair Carl Atkins and current chair Ken Schaphorst; Jazz Advance: The Legacy of Cecil Taylor (alum) featuring an all-star line-up including Matthew Shipp (former student), Bruce Brubaker (faculty), Dan Tepfer (alum), plus faculty members Ran Blake, Ethan Iverson and Joe Morris; a weeklong residency and concert by Luciana Souza (alum); and The Music of Gunther Schuller featuring the NEC Jazz Orchestra; Cosmosis: The Music of Dave Holland featuring Jim McNeely with the NEC Jazz Orchestra; The Invisible Choir, The Music of Ken Schaphorst and many more.

NYC events will include an NEC Faculty All-Star Group featuring Fred Hersch (alum, former faculty), and current faculty members Donny McCaslin, Billy Hart and Cecil McBee at the Jazz Standard; Dominique Eade (alum, faculty) and Fred Hersch (alum, former faculty) at the Jazz Standard; and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society (alum) as well as the NEC Alumni Big Band at the Sheen Center.  A full list of celebratory events is below.

 “I’m very grateful for Gunther Schuller’s farsightedness and efforts in establishing the Jazz department in 1969,” says current Jazz Studies Chair Ken Schaphorst. “I’m also grateful to the faculty and students who have established NEC as a leader in the world of jazz education over the past 50 years. It’s been deeply humbling to share the responsibility of shepherding this noble mission for the past 18 years, educating students in the transformational art form of jazz, developing communication between unique individual human voices. I’m excited to have this opportunity with Jazz50 to celebrate the achievements of NEC’s past and present, while looking forward to our future.”

NEC’s Jazz Studies Department was the brainchild of Gunther Schuller, who moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum when he became president of the Conservatory in 1967. He soon hired saxophonist Carl Atkins as the first department chair, as well as other greats including NEA Jazz Master George Russell, pianist Jaki Byard and Ran Blake. The foundation of its teaching and success begins with the mentor relationship developed in lessons between students and the prominent faculty artists. In addition to its two jazz orchestras, faculty-coached small ensembles reflect NEC’s inclusive approach to music making, with ensembles focused on free jazz, early jazz, gospel music, Brazilian music, and songwriting, as well as more traditional approaches to jazz performance.

Students are encouraged to find their own musical voices while making connections and collaborating with a vibrant community of creative musicians, and ultimately to transform the world through the power of music. The program has spawned numerous Grammy winning composers and performers and has an alumni list that reads like a who’s who of jazz, while the faculty has included six MacArthur “genius” grant recipients (three currently teaching) and four NEA Jazz Masters.

“This anniversary provides us the opportunity to reflect on half a century of leadership in jazz education at New England Conservatory, and to celebrate the importance of jazz in both the history and future of American music,” says NEC President Andrea Kalyn.

2019-2020 Season: Jazz50 Celebration

FALL 2019

Wednesday, August 28 | Jazz Jam Session

7:30 p.m. Brown Hall

Tuesday, September 17 | Dave Holland Small Combo Master Class

1:30 p.m. Williams Hall

Thursday, September 19 | Dave Holland Master Class

1 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Friday, September 20 | Music of Dave Holland Residency Concert

7:30 p.m. Brown Hall

Dave Holland will perform his original compositions with NEC student ensembles.

Wednesday, October 2 | A Discussion with Tyshawn Sorey

12-1:50 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, October 3 | Concert Featuring Tyshawn Sorey

7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey is celebrated for his incomparable virtuosity, effortless mastery and memorization of highly complex scores, and an extraordinary ability to blend composition and improvisation in his work. A MacArthur Fellow, he’s been praised by The New Yorker as being “among the most formidable denizens of the in-between zone…An extraordinary talent who can see across the entire musical landscape.”

The concert will include Sorey’s recent orchestral piece, “For Bill Dixon and A. Spencer Barefield,” his chamber pieces “Inner Spectrum of Variables (Movement III)” and “For Fred Lerdahl,” his piano piece “Movement,” his noise project “LOUD” featuring faculty member Joe Morris, and an NEC student ensemble playing his “Autoschediasms.”  It will also feature Sorey in an improvisational duo performance with NEC faculty member Anthony Coleman and excerpts from a Yiddish Theatre project featuring Sorey’s arrangements and orchestrations. 

Wednesday, October 16 | Antonio Sanchez Master Class

1 p.m. Brown Hall

Thursday, October 17, 2019 | NEC Jazz Orchestra featuring Carl Atkins, Alan Pasqua, and Antonio Sanchez

7:30 p.m. Concert, Jordan Hall

9:30 p.m. Post-concert Jam Session, Brown Hall

The NEC Jazz Orchestra will celebrate the anniversary of NEC’s Jazz Studies Department by playing music drawn from throughout its 50-year history, including George Russell’s “All About Rosie” and Jaki Byard’s “Two Five One.” Featured guests will include alums Alan Pasqua and Antonio Sanchez. The department’s first chair, Carl Atkins, will assist current chair Ken Schaphorst in conducting.

Friday, October 18, 2019 | Jazz Advance: The Legacy of Cecil Taylor

5 p.m. Pre-concert panel discussion, Brown Hall

7:30 p.m. Concert, Jordan Hall

Among NEC’s many prominent alums, Cecil Taylor stands out for his influence over the history of jazz. Taylor’s significant legacy will be recognized with a series of piano solos featuring NEC faculty and alums: Ran Blake, Bruce Brubaker, Ethan Iverson, Matthew Shipp and Dan Tepfer. Ensemble performances will include Steve Lacy’s “Rain” as well as an ensemble led by NEC faculty member Joe Morris.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019 | NEC Philharmonia & Jazz Orchestra + Hugh Wolff

7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

The NEC Philharmonia and Jazz Orchestra combine to perform Gunter Schuller’s Encounters, written in 2003 for the 100th anniversary of the opening of Jordan Hall.

Monday, November 4 | Grow Your Art Residency with Luciana Souza

1 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room – Master Class

6 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room – Workshop

Tuesday, November 5 | Grow Your Art Residency with Luciana Souza: Business Panel

6 p.m. Burnes Hall

Wednesday, November 6 | Grow Your Art Residency with Luciana Souza  

1 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room – Workshop

6 p.m. Black Box Theater – Pitch Night

Thursday, November 7, 2019 | Luciana Souza: Grow Your Art Residency Concert

7:30 pm, Brown Hall

Grammy-winning NEC alum Luciana Souza is one of jazz’s leading singers and interpreters.  She returns to her alma mater for a week-long collaborative residency with NEC’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department. From November 3 – 7, Souza will work with students, discuss lessons learned in the music business, ways to take charge of one’s career in the rapidly changing world and more, culminating in this performance with NEC students.

Wednesday, November 13 | Joe Morris Instantiation

8 p.m. Brown Hall

Guitarist and Jazz/CI Faculty Member Joe Morris will perform selections from his multi-part piece Instantiation for improvising musicians with ensembles featuring Brad Barrett on bass, Elinor Speirs on violin, Dan O-Brien on reeds, Ben Hall on percussion, Andrea Nicodemou on vibes and others.

Thursday, November 14 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Nieske  

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Monday, November 18 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: McNeil and Carlberg  

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Tuesday, November 19 | NEC Gospel Ensemble & NEC Jazz Composers Ensemble

8 p.m. Brown Hall

Wednesday, November 20 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Seager and Lockwood

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, November 21 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Reichman and Eisenmann

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Tuesday, November 26 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Bergonzi and Morris

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Tuesday, December 3 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Eade

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, December 5, 2019 | The Music of Gunther Schuller

7:30 pm, Jordan Hall

One of Gunther Schuller’s first orders of business as president of NEC was to create the first fully accredited jazz program in a music conservatory in 1969. To honor his musical vision, Schuller’s compositions and arrangements will be performed by the NEC Jazz Orchestra, with the help of his son and NEC alum George Schuller and faculty member Ran Blake.

Monday, December 9 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Coleman, McBee and Morris  

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Tuesday, December 10 | Jazz Composers Workshop Orchestra Concert

7;30 p.m. Brown Hall

Wednesday, December 11 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Levy, Leake and Moses

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, December 12 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Zaleski and Moran

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

SPRING 2020

Wednesday, January 15 | Ran Blake Concert with Bruce Brubaker and Frank Carlberg

7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

Monday, January 27 | Jazz and CI Faculty Spotlight

7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

Tuesday, February 25 | NEC Symphonic Winds, William Drury Conductor  

7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

NEC’s Symphonic Winds will perform Grammy nominated composer Chris Brubeck’s Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra featuring acclaimed trombone soloist James Markey (Boston Symphony Orchestra and chair of NEC’s Brass and Percussion Department).  The ensemble will also perform Brubeck’s D-Day, March to Freedom, as well as other works.

Thursday, February 27 | Cosmosis: The Music of Dave Holland featuring NEC Jazz Orchestra with Jim McNeely

7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

New York City

Thursday, March 19, 2020 | NEC Jazz50 Faculty All-Stars

7:30 and 9:30 pm, Jazz Standard, NYC

NEC has always boasted an impressive faculty. But this quartet, featuring NEC alum and former faculty member Fred Hersch, with current faculty members Donny McCaslin, Billy Hart and Cecil McBee, sets a new standard—each member a leader in the world of jazz, in addition to being a dedicated teacher.

Friday, March 20, 2020 | Dominique Eade and Fred Hersch

7:30 and 9:30 pm, Jazz Standard, NYC

NEC faculty member Dominique Eade was not only the first jazz artist to receive NEC’s prestigious Artist Diploma, but she is also the teacher of many of the most prominent jazz vocalists working today including Sofia Koutsovitis, Jo Lawry, Michael Mayo, Rachael Price, Luciana Souza and Sara Serpa. She joins with the legendary NEC alum and former faculty member, Fred Hersch, for the night.

Saturday, March 21, 2020 | Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and NEC Alumni Big Band 

8 pm, Sheen Center for Thought and Culture

Darcy James Argue is one of many prominent jazz composers to have studied at NEC, working with the legendary Bob Brookmeyer. Darcy’s ensemble will be joined by an all-star group of NEC alums, including Dominique Eade, Marty Ehrlich, Brian Landrus, Tony Kadleck, Michael Thomas, Noah Preminger, Chris Washburne, Curtis Hasselbring, Josh Roseman, Jennifer Wharton, Frank Carlberg, Jerome Harris, and Kim Cass.

Boston

Tuesday, March 31 | Jazz and Wildcard Honors Ensemble Concert

7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

Thursday, April 2 | NEC Gospel Ensemble & NEC Composers Ensemble

7:30 p.m. Brown Hall

Thursday, April 9 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Niekse and Lockwood

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Monday, April 13 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: McNeil and Carlberg Ensembles

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Tuesday, April 14 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Reichman

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Wednesday, April 15 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Eade

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, April 16 | NEC Jazz Orchestra Concert: Invisible Choir: The Music of Ken Schaphorst

7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

Monday, April 20| Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Seager and Morris

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Tuesday, April 21 | Jazz Composers Workshop Orchestra Concert

7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

Wednesday, April 22 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Moses and Levy

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, April 23 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: McBee and Moran  

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, April 30 | The Future: a 50th Premiere 

Featuring the world-premiere of a new work by Grammy nominated musician Chris Brubeck and excerpts from Ellington’s Sacred Concert with guest pianist Helen Sung.

7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

In honor of 50th anniversaries of NEC’s Wind Ensemble and Jazz Department, this concert features the world premiere of a new work by esteemed jazz artist and multi-genre composer Chris Brubeck, commissioned and performed by the NEC Wind Ensemble conducted by William Drury.  Brubeck will attend the concert, which will also feature excerpts from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert, performed by NEC’s Symphonic Winds and Chamber Singers with special guest jazz pianist Helen Sung.

Monday, April 27 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Bergonzi and Coleman

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Tuesday, April 28 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Zaleski, Eisenmann and Leake Ensembles

7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, April 30 | International Jazz Day Celebration

7:30 p.m. Brown Hall