Long-overdue good news for Northwestern’s jazz program

December 5, 2007

Believe it or not, grassroots student activism may still be yielding results.

Last year, Northwestern University suspended its famed jazz studies major, instigating a group of its students to organize a public protest. Participants released a statement voicing their disapproval, and launched a web site, called Friends of NU Jazz, to gain public support. Recent alumnus Mike Lebrun serves as the spokesperson for the effort.

Part of the reason for the degree program’s suspension was a lack of eligible candidates to head it. School of Music Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery had been searching for a new director since 2005, when previous coordinator Don Owens retired. Suitable replacements weren’t turning up in the applicant pool, and the administration allegedly resorted to program suspension as its only option.

Lebrun’s and his fellow music students’ efforts to revive Northwestern’s jazz tradition might be paying off, The Chicago Tribune reported on Sunday. The university recently appointed Victor Goines, a famed saxophonist, clarinetist and jazz educator as the director of jazz studies. Some of the most recent lines on his CV include membership in the Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Wynton Marsalis Septet since 1993, as well as directorship of the Juilliard School jazz program. Appointed in 2000, Goines was the program’s first artistic director.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better candidate,” Lebrun told the Tribune.

“There are really very few places in the United States that have such a strong history in jazz,” Goines said in the same article. “New Orleans does, New York always has been, and Chicago has a very strong tradition in it.”

It’s certainly nice to know that organized groups of young people are still fighting tooth and nail for the survival of jazz education. I’m nevertheless disturbed that such a famed music school was unable to find a qualified jazz director for nearly three years. Let’s hope that Goines will make it his mission to speed things up to where they should be. Known for the strength of its music programs, Northwestern serves as a model for other universities–for better or for worse.

Links:

Friends of NU Jazz: http://www.friendsofnujazz.com

Link to the Chicago Tribune article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/chi-1202_star_dec02,1,926965.story?page=1

Bio of Victor Goines: http://www.juilliard.edu/press/goines.html

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One Response to “Long-overdue good news for Northwestern’s jazz program”

  1. saxcat Says:

    That is great news!
    It is very hard to think of jazz in this country without the words Northwestern in there somewhere.

    It was probably hard to find a replacement for “DO” because he is simply amazing. The guy did/does everything! I can imagine it would be hard to follow such big shoes.

    I’m glad that they are at least trying

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