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Events celebrate jazz studies at Oberlin College

  • Wendell-Logan-Tribute

    Oberlin jazz professors Gary Bartz and Billy Hart.



OBERLIN -- When it comes to jazz studies at Oberlin Conservatory, the story begins with musician and composer Wendell Logan.

After arriving on campus in 1973, the Georgia native created the school’s first focus on the study of jazz. For a decade and a half, Logan’s stewardships built a foundation that culminated in 1989 when Oberlin Conservatory offered its first course of study toward a bachelor’s of music degree in Jazz Studies.

The following is a list of public events associated with “Marking 30 Years: A Celebration of Oberlin’s Jazz Studies Degree” taking place Monday through Wednesday (April 15 through 17). All are free except for the Spring Quartet’s April 17 performance in Finney Chapel.
Film Screening with Mark Cantor @ David H. Stull Recital Hall
Filmmaker Mark Cantor will explore four themes in jazz, with each new theme beginning on the hour.
7 p.m. – Giants of Jazz, which surveys the music’s amazing diversity.
8 p.m. – The Jazz Vocalist, which celebrates the great jazz singers from Billie Holiday to Mel Tormé.
9 p.m. – Jazz Dance, highlighting the genre’s initial emphasis on movement like the Lindy Hop.
10 p.m. – Combos Big and Small, paying tribute to great ensembles through the ages.
Producing Jazz: Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow @ Clonick Hall
3:30 p.m. – 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.
Oberlin Jazz Faculty In Concert @ Finney Chapel
7:30 p.m. – 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.
Amazing Jazz Stories @ David H. Stull Recital Hall
3:30 p.m. – Join members of Oberlin’s jazz faculty and ethnomusicologist Fredara Hadley for a wide-ranging conversation documenting their unforgettable experiences in jazz.
Spring Quartet In Concert @ Finney Chapel
7:30 p.m. – The jazz supergroup -- featuring drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophone player Joe Lovano, bassist-vocalist Esperanza Spalding and pianist Leo Genovese -- closes out the 2018-19 Artist Recital Series season. Limited seats available. Call 800-371-0178

A professor of African American music, Logan passed away in 2010; however, he’s still revered as the godfather of jazz at Oberlin. Somebody who was around 30 years ago when Logan was creating the program is Oberlin Conservatory Jazz Studies Division Director and Jazz Guitar Professor Bobby Ferrazza.

“At the time, most of the curriculum was already up and running, with Wendell teaching almost all of those classes,” Ferrazza said. “He just couldn’t teach the different instruments. That’s a long time ago. The department has grown a lot since then.

“Today, it certainly ranks extremely high in the world. I just talked to a student who came to go to school here from the Bay Area in California. There’s no question, it has a worldwide reputation. We have one of the largest departments in the Conservatory now with sometimes more than 80 students.”

In order to commemorate the important anniversary, Oberlin Conservatory is holding a three-day affair -- “Marking 30 Years: A Celebration of Oberlin’s Jazz Studies Degree” -- that takes place Monday through Wednesday around the Lorain County campus.

A key part of the celebration involves the rare performance by Oberlin's own renowned jazz faculty, including all-time greats Billy Hart on drums and Gary Bartz on sax. The special show takes place Tuesday evening at Finney Chapel.

“We have faculty that have played with all of the greatest musicians in jazz,” said Ferrazza, who will also be one of the 10 musicians performing that evening. “They’re traveling the world all of the time.

“Because of how busy they are, it’s not that common that we’re able to get everybody in the same place at the same time to play a concert. I know the kids are excited to hear us play together here.”

The other high-profile show featuring drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophone player Joe Lovano, bassist-vocalist Esperanza Spalding and pianist Leo Genovese is the Spring Quartet In Concert, which is scheduled for Wednesday evening at Fiinney Chapel. The jazz supergroup closes out the 2018-19 Artist Recital Series season.

“That’s another great show,” Ferrazza said. “We’re real proud to have them as part of this celebration. That’s a fantastic group. I’m sure that will be magical as well.”

Invariably, there’s been plenty of magic associated with the Oberlin’s Jazz Studies Degree program over the last three decades. Looking ahead, Ferrazza said the future remains bright for the department.

“One of the things I’m looking forward to is we have recently added a jazz vocal program,” Ferrazza said. “That’s only a couple of years old. Also, next year we’ll start a gospel choir that’s not even just for jazz vocalists.

“A lot of vocalists from across campus have wanted that outlet for a long time. It’ll give our jazz vocalists a great foundation for their education so it’s a new thing that I think is going to be amazing. I’m really excited about that. I think those things bode well for the future.”

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