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A Musical Coup — Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute Heads to USC

by Ed Newton

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance will move to USC in the fall of 1999.

Offering one of the nation’s most intensive college-level programs in jazz studies, the institute, now at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, will bring an all-star cast of artists in residence to Los Angeles to work directly with young musicians.

The list of musicians teaching the institute’s master classes has included Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Grover Washington Jr., Slide Hampton, Jackie McLean, Barry Harris, Jimmy Heath and Clark Terry. Master bassist Ron Carter is the institute’s artistic director. Saxophonist Carl Atkins is its program director.

The institute’s move to USC was announced Sunday, Sept. 27, at a jazz gala in the Washington, D.C., home of Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, who hosted the institute’s tribute to George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.

“This new partnership is a powerful symbol of the USC School of Music’s growing stature as a world leader in jazz education,” said President Steven B. Sample, “and it clearly demonstrates the arts’ importance to the university’s mission.”

Thelonious Monk Jr. is chairman of the institute. “This new alliance solidifies the institute’s base of operations in Los Angeles and enables us to enhance our sub- stantive programming throughout the Southern California region,” Monk said.

EVERY TWO YEARS, the Institute of Jazz Performance selects a group of students from around the world to participate in its program. Every student receives a scholarship for full tuition, room and board, and a monthly stipend for living expenses.

During their two years in the program, students receive personal mentoring, ensemble coaching and lectures on the jazz tradition. They study composition, theory, ear training, improvisation, keyboard skills, arranging, orchestration, performance techniques, musicology and other subjects that will prepare them to be professional jazz musicians and educators.

Students also receive ample opportunities to perform. In 1996, students traveled with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter to India and Thailand, where they presented a series of courses and performances. In 1998, students traveled to Chile, Argentina and Peru, where they performed before 34 heads of state at the Summit of the Americas. Institute instructors lead the students in community outreach programs in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles and other locations.

At the USC School of Music, the institute’s students will enroll as Thelonious Monk Institute fellows. Like other USC jazz students, they will earn a certificate diploma or a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree.

Larry Livingston, dean of the School of Music, believes the institute’s move to USC will further establish the university at the forefront of jazz education. “It will afford an oppor tunity for artistic synergy at the highest level between faculty and students,” he said.

Shelly Berg, chairman of the jazz studies program, agrees: “As these fine young musicians tour worldwide, they’ll be associated not only with Monk but also with USC. When they start their solo careers, they’ll always carry that USC connection with them.”

USC’s jazz studies program boasts many well-known musicians among its faculty members, including John Clayton, John Thomas, Ndugu Chancler, Jeff Hamilton, Thom Mason and Bruce Eskovitz. Alumni of the program include Herb Alpert, Lionel Hampton, Patrice Rushen, Lee Ritenour, Tom Scott, Billy Childs, Charles Owens, Bruce Eskovitz, Larry Koonse, Tim Emmons, Donald Vega and John Thomas.

“The USC School of Music has a long-standing reputation as one of the most vibrant music schools in the world,” Livingston noted.

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance first opened in 1995 at the New England Conservatory of Music and graduated its first class in 1997.

The institute is already a major presence in the Los Angeles jazz scene. Last year, it joined forces with the Los Angeles Music Center to increase jazz performances at the center’s downtown arts complex and elsewhere in Los Angeles County. The first year of the institute’s Los Angeles program has included a major concert, a lecture-concert series on the history of jazz and an expansion of the program’s public schools program called Jazz Sports LA, as well as seminars and symposiums. Herbie Hancock is artistic director of the Music Center program.

A Musical Coup — Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute Heads to USC

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