Jazz Studies

Jazz Department History

A Brief History of the Jacobs School of Music Jazz Department: Genesis and Evolution

The 1950s

A number of large and small ensembles enjoyed some degree of prominence but there was no official relationship between these groups and the university. However, the personnel of these groups often consisted predominantly of I.U. students. Some of the bandleaders were Wayne Luby, Fred Dale, Ed Yates, Al Cobine, and David Baker. The bands functioned largely as dance bands, who filled the musical needs of fraternities, sororities, university functions (proms, military balls, etc).

Through these years there was a vibrant and thriving jam session scene at fraternity houses, music school practice rooms (much to the dismay of the music administration), Trees Center, and virtually anyplace else with a functional piano. These sessions included such student alumni as saxophonists Jerry Coker, Al Cobine, David Niver, Paul Plummer, John Pierce, Fred Fox, John Hardy, Dave Young, George Bright, Jim Houston, Roger Pemberton, Bob Cowart, and Rich Henry; trumpet players Al Kiger, Jerry Tyree, Dominic Spera, Lee Katzman, David Hardiman, Dick Washburn, Verne Kressler, and Fred Dale; trombonists Buddy Baker, Bill Hanna, Tillman Buggs, Tom Ringo, Jim Hewitt, David Baker, and Morgan O'Dell; pianists Jack Coker, Roger Dickerson, Donald Pickett, Jack Wilson, Al Plank, Lanny Hartley, and Morris Hubbard; bassists Larry Ridley, Bill Takas, Ray Luby, Max Hartstein, Bernie Holley; drummers Joe Hunt. Visiting players included Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Leroy Vinnegar, Wes Montgomery, Benny Barth, Harold Jones, Andy Simpkins, Les Spann, Lou Ciotti, Ed Haley, Virgil Jones, and Freddie Hubbard.

In 1953 the Fred Dale Band consisting of a majority of I.U. students entered a Metronome magazine Collegiate Jazz Band Contest. This was among the first of such contests and was adjudicated by tapes. The band included Al Kiger, Jerry Coker, Al Cobine, Buddy Baker, and David Baker. The band was a co-winner of this national contest along with the band from UCLA. The prize was a monetary award and a recording for a small label.
Further attention on the national level regarding jazz came to I.U. as a result of a highly acclaimed album on Fantasy Records by then-student Jerry Coker. It was called Modern Music from Indiana University and was released in 1955. It included other students Bob Cowart (tenor sax), Fred Fox and Roger Pemberton (baritone sax), Al Kiger (trumpet), and Jim Hewitt (trombone).

In 1959 a jazz band comprised of I.U. students and musicians from Indianapolis and Richmond, Indiana headed by David Baker and representing Indiana University was named Best Band at the first Notre Dame Jazz Festival.

The 1960s

1959-1960. In 1960 jazz ensembles were set up on a minor ensemble basis and Edwin "Buddy" Baker, an experienced jazz musician and splendid trombone player, was appointed to head an incipient jazz program.

1960. The new jazz ensemble was given a new academic status in that the jazz ensembles were added to the School of Music curriculum for credit and courses in stylistic analysis and arranging for the jazz medium were offered.

1961-1962. Roger Max Pemberton was appointed as Lecturer in Music. He was assigned to direct one of the organized jazz bands and to teach arranging.

1964-1965. Jerry Coker, a graduate assistant, replaced Buddy Baker, who relocated to the University of Northern Colorado. At the same time, Roger Pemberton resigned and moved to New York City.

1965-1966. Jerry Coker was appointed part-time Lecturer in Music. Tom Wirtel, a graduate student, led a second ensemble.

1966-1967. Jerry Coker left to teach at the University of Miami at Coral Gables, Florida. David Baker was hired as Instructor in Music and chair of the jazz program, with instructions to design and institute a degree-granting program in jazz studies.

1968-1969. The baccalaureate in Jazz Studies was approved and jazz band became a major ensemble.

The 1970s to present

1970-1974. The degree program flourished and two more bands were added, bringing the number to four bands. Classes in jazz history, black music, jazz improvisation, jazz styles and analysis, and small group jazz rounded out the curriculum. The classes were all taught by a single teacher, David Baker, with the aid of four teaching assistants.

August 1975. Dr. George Ross, saxophonist and Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music, was hired at the rank of Assistant Professor of Music.

August 1977. Dominic Spera (trumpet) replaced George Ross and was hired at the rank of Associate Professor of Music. Mr. Spera came to Indiana University from the University at Wisconsin Eau Claire, where he had headed a successful program. He was later promoted to the rank of Professor of Music and retired in 1997 with the rank of Professor Emeritus.

1979. The Masters Degree program in Jazz Studies was approved.

1992. Michael Lucas (piano) was transferred from the Modern Dance program in the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation to a part-time role in the jazz department, teaching jazz piano class. In January 2000 he became full-time faculty in the jazz department.

January 1997. Dr. Luke Gillespie (piano) was hired on a split appointment in General Studies and Jazz Studies.

August 1997. Patrick Harbison (trumpet) was hired at the rank of Associate Professor. He came to Indiana University from the faculty of the University of Cincinnati-Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

August 1997. Dr. Thomas Walsh (saxophone) was hired at the rank of Assistant Professor to teach the jazz saxophone majors and the classical overload.