A Brief History of the Center for Jazz Studies
In 1995 Professor Robert O’Meally first convened the Jazz Study Group, a group of scholars, journalists, musicians, writers and others, to share their perspectives on jazz. Unique in its approach, the Jazz Study Group was among the first high-level scholarly research groups to examine jazz not only as a musical form, but also as a cultural phenomenon that has influenced all aspects of American culture.
The idea for a Center devoted to the study of jazz as a culture grew out of these meetings, and in 1999, with the support of the Ford Foundation, the Center for Jazz Studies was born. Since then, the Center for Jazz Studies has extended the scope of its activities, embracing a tripartite mission of research, teaching, and public event sponsorship, in the affirmation that understanding jazz can provide a link to the development of new knowledge.
Center for Jazz Studies faculty count among the leading figures in the field: John Szwed, Brent Hayes Edwards, Christopher Washburne, Margo Jefferson, Robert O’Meally, Ann Douglas, Farah Jasmine Griffin, and George E. Lewis, the Center’s current Director. Core and affiliated Center faculty serve as sponsors, co-sponsors, and readers for doctoral students engaged in research related to jazz studies, working to create the next generation of scholars in the field.
Center for Jazz Studies course offerings attract more than 500 students each year, and since the 2003-2004 academic year, all Columbia students have studied jazz as part of Columbia’s famed Core Curriculum, taken by every Columbia student.
The Center for Jazz Studies presents concerts, lectures, and other community events that pair jazz performances by world-class artists with scholarly discussion and public involvement. The Center’s first jazz festival attracted 5000 people to the Columbia lawn; for its latest, the 2007 Columbia/Harlem Festival of Global Jazz, the Center received funding from Columbia’s Office of the President, and with the tenacious logistical support of Columbia’s Office of Government and Community Affairs, partnered with the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and Jazzmobile, Inc. for ten days of performances, conferences, symposia, film screenings and transnational technology-based community events featuring leading composers, improvisors, journalists and scholars from more than 16 countries.