The University of Kansas  

KU Interdisciplinary Jazz Studies Group

Mission Statement

We are a group of KU faculty members from different departments, whose research, writing, and teaching interests intersect in the interdisciplinary field known as Jazz Studies. We are committed to presenting interdisciplinary jazz studies programming, including colloquia, speakers, films, workshops, and concerts; developing and offering jazz-related courses across the curriculum, and supporting interdisciplinary jazz research among KU faculty and students. In exploring the connections between our common, yet diverse, interests and expertise, we hope to build bridges that will be of value to others at KU, not only for those interested in jazz, but to all who wish to collaborate across disciplines, departments, and communities.

Our long-term goal is the establishment of a Jazz Studies Center at KU. The Center would not be housed in any one department, but would operate as a cross-departmental meeting ground, think tank, and workshop, bringing together scholars and artists from throughout the university and beyond for colloquia, speakers series, and curriculum development of cross-listed interdisciplinary and team taught courses in jazz studies. Under a director, the Center would present public lectures and concerts, and facilitate study groups for faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and community members. The Center would serve as a clearing house for jazz researchers in the mid-west, as well as globally through utilizing digital library resources, and through developing relationships with major jazz centers of jazz research such as the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia, the Institute for Jazz Studies at Rutgers, the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane, and the Chicago Jazz Archive at University of Chicago. With our rich history of jazz performance, research, and writing, not to mention our proximity to Kansas City, KU is the historically right place for an internationally visible Jazz Studies Center.

In establishing the KUIJSG, we capitalize on a unique set of resources and circumstances, including:

1) A core faculty from across the university committed to and qualified to teach Jazz Studies courses.

2) A strong emphasis on jazz performance in the KU Department of Music and Dance. The KU Jazz Ensemble I specializes in playing contemporary repertory written for big band. Jazz Ensembles II and III tend to play music from the Swing Era through hard bop and other styles of the late 1950s and 1960s. There are also eight jazz combos of five to seven players each, and most years there are also two vocal jazz combos. The KU Jazz Festival, now in its twenty-sixth year, takes place over two to three days in March or April and includes players of international fame. The KU Jazz Workshop takes place for a week during the summer, including players of high school and college age and public school teachers who also take part in ensembles and study with visiting artists.

3) The Wright Memorial Jazz Archive. When the cataloguing of this archive is complete, its rare audio recordings and print materials will attract jazz scholars nationally and internationally.

4) Proximity to Kansas City, which along with New Orleans, Chicago and New York, was a key incubator of jazz. Resources include the American Jazz Museum, and the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

5) KU’s commitment to racial/gender diversity. Given that jazz has often served as a metaphor for freedom, and has functioned as a critical arena for contesting racial and gender issues, the study of jazz (in its production, reception and evaluation) is significant in terms of probing the goals and assumptions of a society aspiring to democracy and equal opportunity.