John Petrucelli Named Oberlin’s First Postdoctoral Fellow in Jazz History

Educator and performer to teach courses and guide student research.

June 27, 2022

Erich Burnett

John Petrucelli.
Photo credit: courtesy of John Petrucelli

John Petrucelli, a jazz saxophonist, composer, scholar, and educator, has been named the first James R. '58 and Susan Neumann Postdoctoral Fellow of Jazz History at Oberlin Conservatory, a two-year appointment that begins in fall 2022.

The position was made possible by James and Susan Neumann, whose recent $1.6 million gift to the conservatory supports the endowment of the fellowship in jazz history. The Neumanns’ generosity also provided for the 2011 gift of an extensive collection of more than 100,000 recordings, books, posters, and other artifacts chronicling the history of jazz.

Beginning with Petrucelli, each postdoctoral fellow will be hired for a two-year term to teach courses on specialized topics in jazz history and prepare research involving Oberlin students. The conservatory’s expansive archival materials, including those provided by the Neumanns, will play an integral role in both coursework and research.

Petrucelli arrives after serving as visiting director of jazz at the University of Utah. At Oberlin, he will interact with students interested in jazz and contemporary American music.

“Oberlin is fortunate to have John Petrucelli join us on campus,” says Deborah Campana, head of the Conservatory Library and chair of the search committee. “As someone fairly new to the college classroom, John impressed the committee by his devotion to the art of jazz performance. At the same time, it was also evident that he holds respect for its history and impact on society. His ability to share this wisdom and enthusiasm while engaging with the resources provided in our special collections will benefit our entire community.”

Petrucelli earned master’s degrees in jazz studies from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts and in jazz history and research from Rutgers University-Newark, followed by a PhD in music from the University of Pittsburgh. He holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. In 2019, he was honored by the Jazz Education Network for outstanding contributions to jazz education.

Petrucelli’s interests span the history of jazz. He has performed with and learned from a long list of luminaries including Geri Allen, Charles Tolliver, Terence Blanchard, and late Oberlin alumnus Stanley Cowell ’62, his mentor at Rutgers. His research interests include the music of underrepresented saxophonists, and he hopes to complete a book on one of them, Clifford Jordan, during his fellowship.

Petrucelli’s three recordings to date reveal his devotion to the jazz tradition as well as his penchant for exploring realms of contemporary classical and new music, and seeking points of intersection between the varied musical languages. He continues to perform with duos and ensembles of various sizes.

“I feel as though I'm coming to Oberlin College and Conservatory with a blank slate,” says Petrucelli. “What is most intriguing about this opportunity is the ability to collaborate with world-class faculty across the college and conservatory while pursuing new avenues in my research, pedagogy, and performance practice that will be inspired through the Neumann Collection. I’m hoping to make the most of the these two years and to contribute as much as I can to the Oberlin community.”

The endowment of Oberlin’s jazz history postdoctoral fellowship coincides with news of a newly developed minor in African American music, created in tandem with the Conservatory of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences. In spring, the conservatory appointed musicologist Courtney-Savali Andrews to a new tenure-track faculty position in African American and African diasporic music.

Oberlin Conservatory’s newly endowed postdoctoral fellowship in jazz history continues the institution’s ongoing efforts to expand curricular diversity and support inclusion. Learn more about Oberlin's commitment in the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity and the conservatory’s Racial Equity and Diversity Action Plan.

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