Rhodes and Community Partners Highlight Work of Jazz Innovator Dave Brubeck

a black and white picture of jazz musicians reading music while playing their instruments

As the college celebrates 90 years in Memphis, Rhodes is pleased to contribute to Memphis’ rich musical scene with the 2016 Brubeck Festival. Not only was Dave Brubeck an innovative jazz pianist, but also he wrote choral and orchestral works and was a respected leader in the struggle for civil rights. A Dave Brubeck art exhibition currently is on display at the National Civil Rights Museum. 

While serving in the U.S. Army, Brubeck organized the Wolf Pack, a racially integrated music group in American’s then-segregated armed forces. He regularly declined opportunities to play for segregated audiences in the American South in the 1950s and 1960s. His political and ethical beliefs were expressed in “The Real Ambassadors,” which was recorded in 1961, and featured the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and the Louis Armstrong Quartet. The following year, a concert version of the musical was performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in a production featuring Louis Armstrong. In 2012, it was finally performed at for Jazz at Lincoln Center. The Brubeck Festival presented by Rhodes will include two performances of  “The Real Ambassadors” on April 8 and April 10

Brubeck wrote the play with his wife, Iola, who also penned the lyrics to many of his songs and choral works. In 2000, the University of the Pacific established the Brubeck Institute to build on Dave Brubeck’s legacy and his lifelong dedication to music, creativity, education, and the advancement of important social issues including civil rights, international relations, environmental concerts, and social justice. The University of the Pacific has partnered with Rhodes College and the City of Memphis to celebrate the music and work of this American Icon.

Other partners include the National Civil Rights Museum, Shelby County Schools, Opera Memphis, Playhouse on the Square, WKNO, and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Special thanks also goes to supporters Darius Brubeck, Tommie Pardue, and Simon Rowe, executive director of the Brubeck Institute.

As part of the festival on April 9 at the Cannon Center, Dr. William Skoog, chair of the Rhodes Department of Music, will direct “To Hope,” a mass written by Dave Brubeck. The second half of this concert will be a jazz concert, featuring Brubeck Play Brubeck. Brubeck converted to Catholicism during the writing of “To Hope” and noted, “I approached the composition as prayer, concentrating upon the phrases, trying to probe beneath the surface, hoping to translate into music the powerful words which have grown throughout the centuries.” Brubeck’s sons will join United Kingdom saxophonist Dave O’Higgins for this concert, which also includes the Rhodes MasterSingers Chorale, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and Randal Rushing, tenor soloist.

For information about all the exciting events going on during the Brubeck Festival, see the brochure.