Dave Brubeck: Teacher
Published in TC Today - Volume 26, No. 1
Dave Brubeck held a master class and concert at TC with two of his sons, Danny on trombone and bass and Chris on drums. Also performing with the trio were St. Joseph's Choir from Babylon, the Senior Gospel Chorus from Eleanor Roosevelt Intermediate School 143M in Washington Heights, and instrumentalists and chamber singers from Syosset High School. At the performance, Brubeck was awarded the TC Medal for Distinguished Service.
When the Dean of his Conservatory found out that he couldn't read music, he was told he couldn't graduate. Many students would have been troubled, but this student, Dave Brubeck, told the Dean, "I love jazz, that's what I want to do, and I can get by."
Two of his professors who recognized Brubeck's natural talent convinced the Dean to let him graduate. The Dean said to Brubeck, "I will let you graduate on the condition that you never teach and embarrass the conservatory."
Even at 80, he is more than "getting by."
His love of jazz is what still keeps him playing and touring 59 years after his graduation. Every five years since he turned 70, he and his four sons have performed with the London Symphony to celebrate his birthday. This year, the Symphony invited him back for his 85th.
One of the students that Brubeck began teaching-unbeknownst to Brubeck-is Bert Konowitz, Adjunct Professor, Conductor and Artistic Director of Spirit, the resident Teachers College Improv Ensemble. Konowitz and many other musicians like him started learning from Brubeck in the 1950s when they bought the red vinyl record "Jazz at Oberlin."
Under Konowitz's conducting and direction, Brubeck held a master class and concert at TC with two of his sons, Danny on trombone and bass and Chris on drums. Also performing with the trio were St. Joseph's Choir from Babylon, the Senior Gospel Chorus from Eleanor Roosevelt Intermediate School 143M in Washington Heights, New York, and instrumentalists and chamber singers from Syosset High School in Syosset, New York.
At the performance, Brubeck was awarded the TC Medal for Distinguished Service by TC President Arthur Levine, which is presented to those whose work has contributed significantly to the field of education. Harold F. Abeles, Professor of Music Education and Program Coordinator read the citation to Brubeck.
As a composer, Brubeck has written and recorded works that include ballets, a musical, an oratorio, cantatas, solo piano pieces, works for jazz combo and orchestra. He has performed with the New York Philharmonic. He also was composer-performer in concerts of his choral compositions and as soloist with orchestras. When Pope John Paul II visited the United States in 1987, Brubeck composed special music and participated in its performance at the Papal Mass in Candlestick Park, California.
Brubeck, whose work with Paul Desmond led to notoriety for their improvisational sound now known as "West Coast" or "Cool Jazz," was the first jazz artist featured on the cover of Time magazine. His quartet's first experiment in odd-metered rhythms, Time Out, that featured singles, "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk" was the first album in modern jazz to "go gold."
One of the first musicians to have a star placed in his name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Brubeck was also inducted into the first Playboy Jazz Hall of Fame along with Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. In 1989, the French Government cited him for his contribution to the arts. Former President Clinton awarded Brubeck the National Medal of Arts in 1994.
In 1920, Brubeck was born in Concord, California and began banging out his own selections and popular tunes at the age of 4. Raised on a cattle ranch, he wanted to become a veterinarian, but a science department advisor suggested that he switch to music.
It was clear that Brubeck enjoyed improvising and working with the choirs and other musicians. "I'm really amazed that I got this far," he said. "Wait until they hear at my alma mater."previous page