NEC Jazz Studies 50th Anniversary
Jazz50 concerts in Boston, NYC and LA

New England Conservatory (NEC)’s internationally renowned Jazz Studies Department, the first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory, continues its 50th anniversary celebration with a diverse and compelling spring season showcasing the department’s vibrant legacy and its place as one of the top jazz education programs in the world. Jazz50 includes concerts and events in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles featuring many of the school’s distinguished jazz alumni, faculty, students and special guests.

Boston events will include Cosmosis: The Music of Dave Holland featuring Jim McNeely with the NEC Jazz Orchestra; The Invisible Choir, The Music of Ken Schaphorst; The Future: a 50th Premiere featuring a new work by Chris Brubeck and excerpts from Ellington’s Sacred Concert with pianist Helen Sung; and many more.

NYC events, March 19-21, will include an NEC All-Star Group featuring Fred Hersch, Donny McCaslin, Miguel Zenón, Jorge Roeder, and Richie Barshay at the Jazz Standard; Dominique Eade and Fred Hersch at the Jazz Standard; and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society as well as the NEC Alumni Big Band at the Sheen Center. A full list of celebratory events is below.

The season concludes in Los Angeles on May 30 with an NEC Jazz50 Celebration featuring Luciana Souza, Alan Pasqua, and others.

“I’m very grateful for Gunther Schuller’s farsightedness and efforts in establishing the Jazz department in 1969,” says current Jazz Studies Chair Ken Schaphorst. “I’m also grateful to the faculty and students who have established NEC as a leader in the world of jazz education over the past 50 years. It’s been deeply humbling to share the responsibility of shepherding this noble mission for the past 18 years, educating students in the transformational art form of jazz, developing communication between unique individual human voices. I’m excited to have this opportunity with Jazz50 to celebrate the achievements of NEC’s past and present, while looking forward to our future.”

NEC’s Jazz Studies Department was the brainchild of Gunther Schuller, who moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum when he became president of the Conservatory in 1967. He soon hired saxophonist Carl Atkins as the first department chair, as well as other greats including NEA Jazz Master George Russell, pianist Jaki Byard and Ran Blake. The foundation of its teaching and success begins with the mentor relationship developed in lessons between students and the prominent faculty artists. In addition to its two jazz orchestras, faculty-coached small ensembles reflect NEC’s inclusive approach to music making, with ensembles focused on free jazz, early jazz, gospel music, Brazilian music, and songwriting, as well as more traditional approaches to jazz performance.

Students are encouraged to find their own musical voices while making connections and collaborating with a vibrant community of creative musicians, and ultimately to transform the world through the power of music. The program has spawned numerous Grammy winning composers and performers and has an alumni list that reads like a who’s who of jazz, while the faculty has included six MacArthur “genius” grant recipients (three currently teaching) and four NEA Jazz Masters.

“This anniversary provides us the opportunity to reflect on half a century of leadership in jazz education at New England Conservatory, and to celebrate the importance of jazz in both the history and future of American music,” says NEC President Andrea Kalyn.

Spring 2020 Season: Jazz50 Celebration

Monday, January 27 | Jazz and CI Faculty Spotlight
7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

Tuesday, February 25 | NEC Symphonic Winds, William Drury Conductor
7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

NEC’s Symphonic Winds will perform Grammy nominated composer Chris Brubeck’s Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra featuring acclaimed trombone soloist James Markey (Boston Symphony Orchestra and chair of NEC’s Brass and Percussion Department). The ensemble will also perform Brubeck’s D-Day, March to Freedom, as well as other works.

Thursday, February 27 | Cosmosis: The Music of Dave Holland featuring NEC Jazz Orchestra with Jim McNeely
7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

NEC’s Visiting Artist in Residence Dave Holland will be joined by Jim McNeely for the first US performance of Holland’s music arranged by McNeely for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band in 2017.

New York City

Thursday, March 19, 2020 | NEC All-Stars featuring Hersch, McCaslin, Zenon, Roeder and Barshay
7:30 and 9:30 pm, Jazz Standard, NYC

This quintet, featuring NEC alum and former faculty member Fred Hersch, with faculty saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Miguel Zenon, and alums Jorge Roeder and Richie Barshay sets a new standard—each member a leader in the world of jazz, in addition to having strong ties to NEC.

Friday, March 20, 2020 | Dominique Eade and Fred Hersch
7:30 and 9:30 pm, Jazz Standard, NYC

NEC faculty member Dominique Eade was not only the first jazz artist to receive NEC’s prestigious Artist Diploma, but she is also the teacher of many of the most prominent jazz vocalists working today including Sofia Koutsovitis, Jo Lawry, Michael Mayo, Rachael Price, Luciana Souza and Sara Serpa. She joins with the legendary NEC alum and former faculty member, Fred Hersch, for the night.

Saturday, March 21, 2020 | Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and NEC Alumni Big Band
8 pm, Sheen Center for Thought and Culture

Darcy James Argue is one of many prominent jazz composers to have studied at NEC, working with the legendary Bob Brookmeyer. Darcy’s ensemble will be joined by an all-star group of NEC alums, including Dominique Eade, Marty Ehrlich, Brian Landrus, Tony Kadleck, Michael Thomas, Noah Preminger, Chris Washburne, Curtis Hasselbring, Josh Roseman, Jennifer Wharton, Frank Carlberg, Jerome Harris, Aaron Bahr, Rich Barshay, David Neves, Kai Sandoval, Kevin Sun and Kim Cass.


Tuesday, March 31 | Jazz and Wildcard Honors Ensemble Concert
7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

Thursday, April 2 | NEC Gospel Ensemble & NEC Composers Ensemble
7:30 p.m. Brown Hall

Thursday, April 9 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Nieske and Lockwood Ensembles
7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Monday, April 13 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: McNeil and Carlberg Ensembles
7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Tuesday, April 14 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Reichman Ensemble
7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Wednesday, April 15 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Eade Ensemble
7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, April 16 | NEC Jazz Orchestra Concert: Invisible Choir: The Music of Ken Schaphorst
7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

NEC Jazz Studies Chair Ken Schaphorst presents his own compositions and arrangements, reflecting on the department’s 50-year history.

Monday, April 20| Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Seager and Morris Ensembles
7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Tuesday, April 21 | Jazz Composers Workshop Orchestra Concert
7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

Wednesday, April 22 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Moses and Levy Ensembles
7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, April 23 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: McBee and Moran Ensembles
7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Monday, April 27 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Bergonzi and Coleman Ensembles
7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Tuesday, April 28 | Jazz Ensemble Concerts: Zaleski, Eisenmann and Leake Ensembles
7-10 p.m. Eben Jordan Ensemble Room

Thursday, April 30 | The Future: a 50th Premiere
Featuring the world-premiere of a new work by Grammy nominated musician Chris Brubeck and excerpts from Ellington’s Sacred Concert with guest pianist Helen Sung.
7:30 p.m. Jordan Hall

In honor of 50th anniversaries of NEC’s Wind Ensemble and Jazz Department, this concert features the world premiere of a new work by esteemed jazz artist and multi-genre composer Chris Brubeck, commissioned and performed by the NEC Wind Ensemble conducted by William Drury. Brubeck will attend the concert, which will also feature excerpts from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert, performed by NEC’s Symphonic Winds and Chamber Singers with special guest jazz pianist Helen Sung.

Thursday, April 30 | International Jazz Day Celebration
7:30 p.m. Brown Hall

Saturday, May 30 | NEC Jazz50 LA Celebration
9 p.m. Blue Whale, Los Angeles, CA
Luciana Souza and Alan Pasqua; others TBA.

New England Conservatory (NEC) is recognized internationally as a leader among music schools, educating and training musicians of all ages from around the world for over 150 years. With 800 music students representing more than 40 countries in the College, and 2,000 youth and adults who study in the Preparatory and Continuing Education divisions, NEC cultivates a diverse, dynamic community for students, providing them with performance opportunities and high-caliber training with internationally-esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. NEC’s alumni, faculty and students touch nearly every aspect of musical life in the region; NEC is a major engine of the vital activity that makes Boston a musical and cultural capital. With the recent appointment of Andrea Kalyn to serve as NEC’s 17th President, the Conservatory is poised to embark on a new chapter at the forefront of innovation in education and music.