Keeping the Tradition Alive

By Boulard, Garry | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, August 7, 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Keeping the Tradition Alive

Boulard, Garry, Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The relatively low percentage of Black students in jazz studies programs remains a topic of interest as scholars want to ensure that the musical culture of an earlier generation of African-Americans lives on.

WHEN 25-YEAR-OLD ASHLIN Parker applied to the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans, he did so not solely because of the school's well-regarded reputation; he also couldn't pass up an opportunity to play and study jazz in "The Crescent City."

"It isn't just that New Orleans is obviously a city with a great history in the founding and development of jazz," says Parker, who plays the trumpet, "but that the university encourages its students to get out into the city and perform in clubs where they can meet musicians who actually play for a living."

That campus-to-clubs universe is anything but accidental, says Missy Bowen, operations manager in UNO's music department. "There used to be a train called the Smokey Mary that ran all the way from the Mississippi River to what used to be called Milneburg, where the UNO campus is located today. All of the great jazz musicians in the late 1800s and early 1900s traveled that route to play the Milneburg clubs," Bowen says.

Although the train line has not operated in more than 70 years, the same general movement of musicians from the lakefront of New Orleans to the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny continues, with students from UNO playing in any number of clubs throughout the city, in particular the decades-old Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro.

The UNO Jazz Studies Program, which operates within the school's department of music and emphasizes jazz improvisation, history, theory and arranging, is such a valued local institution that it survived a withering round of post-Katrina budget cuts that resulted in the elimination of UNO's opera, composition and classical performance class offerings.

"I think the administration realizes the importance of a strong jazz studies program in the city of New Orleans," says Steve Masakowski, jazz guitarist and UNO CocaCola Chair in Jazz Studies.

"Also, the UNO Jazz Studies Program is highly respected in the jazz community and attracts students from around the world," he adds. "I'm sure it was a very hard decision, but because of our strength and support, we survived the cuts."

Yet, despite the good news of its endurance, UNO's Jazz Studies Program continues to face challenges, one of the most obvious of which is the racial makeup of its enrollment. According to Masakowski, in a city where Blacks make up more than 60 percent of the population, only 30 percent of the jazz studies students are Black

Although there are no statistics documenting the racial break-down of jazz studies students nationally, the percentage of Black students in such programs remains a topic of interest primarily because jazz scholars want to ensure that the musical culture of an earlier generation of African-Americans is not lost on the younger generation.

"Right now we have in our program about 35 students, and five are African-American," says Kenny Burrell, guitarist and jazz program director at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Burrell founded the UCLA jazz program in 1996 with the idea of building a faculty that would be composed of both scholars and musicians out in the field. The program emphasizes jazz performance. Upon graduation, students receive a bachelor's degree in ethnomusicology.

"We've been trying to increase the number of African- American students," adds Burrell. "We've secured some new funding for scholarships which will make it easier and more attractive for African-American students as well as other students to come here."

Such scholarships range from $1,000 per year to more than $10,000 a year, from a number of sources, including the Don Ellis Scholarship in Jazz Trumpet, the Duke Ellington Jazz Piano Scholarship and the Marty Feldman Jazz Scholarship.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Keeping the Tradition Alive


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?