MIT Music and Theater Arts celebrated the golden anniversary of its jazz program in the spring of 2013 with an exhibit in the Lewis Music Library, panel discussions with jazz artists and alumni, and a gala concert.
MIT’s jazz program was founded in 1963, but from the 1920s up until 1963, student-led jazz groups and student-produced concerts abounded on the MIT campus. The student-led jazz groups during those early decades included the MIT Dance Orchestra, the MIT Techtonians and the MIT Jazz Society. On-campus performances were frequently presented by MIT student ensembles as well as by professional artists such as Stan Getz, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane and others. The one thing these efforts lacked was the leadership of a professional jazz educator to mentor and direct the students and their activities.
Today, in addition to the Festival Jazz Ensemble, MIT’s popular Jazz program also includes three jazz combos, coached by bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa, the MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble, led by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and MIT Institute Professor John Harbison, and subjects in jazz history, harmony, arranging, composition and improvisation, taught by composer and trumpeter, Mark Harvey, lecturer and founding director of the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra.