Friday feature: MIT jazz at 50

MIT is celebrating the 50th year for its jazz program. Here’s the MIT news coverage:


MIT Music and Theater Arts is celebrating the golden anniversary of its jazz program this spring with an exhibit in the Lewis Music Library, panel discussions with jazz artists and alumni, and a gala concert.

MIT’s jazz program was founded in 1963, but from the 1920s up until 1963, student-led jazz groups and student-produced concerts abounded on the MIT campus. The student-led jazz groups during those early decades included the MIT Dance Orchestra, the MIT Techtonians and the MIT Jazz Society. On-campus performances were frequently presented by MIT student ensembles as well as by professional artists such as Stan Getz, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane and others. The one thing these efforts lacked was the leadership of a professional jazz educator to mentor and direct the students and their activities.

It was clear to Klaus Liepmann, the Institute’s first director of music, that MIT’s young jazz musicians deserved the leadership of a professional music educator and director. In 1963, Liepmann made the pivotal decision to hire local musician Herb Pomeroy to lead the Techtonians.

Under Pomeroy’s leadership, the jazz program at MIT flourished. The Festival Jazz Ensemble (as it was later renamed) rose to national prominence with its participation at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and in the Notre Dame and Villanova Jazz Festivals. Herb Pomeroy also further developed the jazz program by bringing Everett Longstreth in 1968 to lead a second jazz band at MIT, a post Longstreth would hold for 27 years. Pomeroy retired from MIT in 1985 after leading the Festival Jazz Band for 22 years. Read more.

Check out a schedule of related events.

Also don’t miss one of OCW’s hidden gems, 21M.342 Composing for Jazz Orchestra, which features:

  • An extensive discography on the listening page, plus several full-length MP3 recordings by the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra and MIT Festival Jazz Orchestra;
  • Several video and audio classes on various composition topics, with particular focus on Walter Thompson’s Soundpainting technique;
  • Two student compositions as completed for the final class assignment, with full scores and videos of performances by the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble and Aardvark Jazz Orchestra.

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