Oberlin Celebrates 30 Years of the Jazz Studies Degree

April 2, 2019

Erich Burnett

Oberlin Jazz Ensemble with Maria Schneider
Wendell Logan founded the Oberlin Jazz Ensemble in 1973. In March 2019, the ensemble shared the stage with jazz legend Maria Schneider.
Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

A three-day symposium, April 15-17, made possible by James R. ’58 and Susan Neumann, features talks, films, a faculty performance, and an appearance by the Spring Quartet.

In 1973, jazz musician and composer Wendell Logan arrived in Oberlin, and with him arrived Oberlin Conservatory’s first focus on the study of jazz. Over the next 16 years, the conservatory’s growing emphasis on the form under Logan’s stewardship ultimately blossomed into a full-fledged conservatory division. By 1989, Oberlin offered its first course of study toward a bachelor of music in Jazz Studies.

In April, Oberlin celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Jazz Studies degree with Marking 30 Years: A Celebration of Oberlin’s Jazz Studies Degree. It’s three days of riveting conversations, fascinating films, and scintillating performances that pay tribute to those people who set the course for Oberlin’s jazz success—especially Logan—and for those who experienced the program firsthand. Throughout those 30 years, Oberlin has sent forth no shortage of exemplary young musicians who have fashioned dynamic careers in jazz and other disciplines.

“This celebration of the Jazz Studies degree can be thought of as a tribute to the faculty, staff, and students who made Oberlin’s Division of Jazz Studies a world leader in the education of jazz musicians over these past three decades and more,” says William Quillen, acting dean of the conservatory. “Just as important, it is a celebration of those individuals who cleared the path for the study of jazz at Oberlin long before the degree program was instituted, in particular the legendary Wendell Logan. Without his vision and perseverance, none of this would have been possible.”

Marking 30 Years is made possible through the generosity of James R. ’58 and Susan Neumann. As a student at Oberlin, James Neumann was a member of the Jazz Club and a WOBC radio host who played an integral role in booking artists of great stature to perform on campus. Throughout his life, he amassed what came to be regarded as the country’s largest private collection of jazz memorabilia. In 2011, Neumann began donating to Oberlin that vast collection, which numbers more than 100,000 jazz recordings and other memorabilia.

“It’s hard to put into words,’’ Neumann says of the symposium, which he will attend. “I never expected to have this opportunity, and I’m just so grateful that Oberlin has embraced jazz in this way.”

Following is a list of public events taking place April 15 through 17. All are free except for the Spring Quartet’s April 17 performance in Finney Chapel; learn more about that concert’s extremely limited remaining tickets by calling 800-371-0178.


7 pm | Stull Recital
Filmmaker Mark Cantor will explore four themes in jazz, with each new theme beginning on the hour.
7 pm: Giants of Jazz, which surveys the music’s amazing diversity
8 pm: The Jazz Vocalist, which celebrates the great jazz singers from Billie Holiday to Mel Tormé
9 pm: Jazz Dance, highlighting the genre’s initial emphasis on movement like the Lindy Hop.
10 pm: Combos Big and Small, paying tribute to great ensembles through the ages


3:30 pm | Clonick Hall
What do Oberlin jazz studies professor Jay Ashby; former Oberlin student, 2018 NEA Jazz Master, and Grammy Award-winning producer Todd Barkan; and jazz writer Michael Cuscuna have in common? Extensive experience in producing jazz recordings. Join their discussion about jazz production: where it’s been, where it is, and where it’s going.

7:30 pm | Finney Chapel
Oberlin’s outstanding jazz faculty have shared stages and sessions with the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see them join forces for a set of beloved standards to be announced from the stage.


3:30 pm | Stull Recital Hall
Join members of Oberlin’s jazz faculty and ethnomusicologist Fredara Hadley for a wide-ranging conversation documenting their unforgettable experiences in jazz.

7:30 PM | Fiinney Chapel
The jazz supergroup—featuring drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophone player Joe Lovano, bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, and pianist Leo Genovese—joins the festivities with a performance that closes out the 2018-19 Artist Recital Series season. Call 800-371-0178 for ticket information.

In conjunction with the week’s events, the conservatory library will feature three exhibitions that highlight artifacts from the Neumann Collection and other special collections related to jazz. Those include highlights from the Milton J. and Mona C. Hinton Collection, amassed over a 70-year career by legendary bass player Milt Hinton; a display on jazz trumpeter Bunk Johnson featuring material from the Stanley King Jazz Collection and the Neumann Collection; and Sonny Rollins’ 1968 Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone, which was donated to Oberlin in 2017, when the legendary jazzman laid the groundwork for the Oberlin Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble.

In addition, digital displays throughout the Kohl Building will showcase photographs, posters, and other materials sourced from Oberlin’s various jazz collections.

You may also like…

Peter Takács—A Half-Century Celebrated

May 4, 2024

This spring marks the official conclusion of Takács’ tenure, after an incredible 48 years of teaching. Many of his former students from around the world are set to convene for a celebratory concert in Warner Concert Hall on May 12
man seated in front of grand piano