Legendary Pitt Jazz Studies Program Director Nathan Davis to retire

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Among Davis’ notable accomplishments are:

• establishing the 42-year-old annual Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert, during which international jazz stars have come to campus, conducted free lecture/demonstrations, performed at community venues, and given a gala Saturday-night concert at Carnegie Music Hall;

• creating the University of Pittsburgh Sonny Rollins International Jazz Archives, which houses original manuscripts, commercial recordings, photographs, musical instruments donated by jazz pioneers and their families, and video and audio recordings documenting the annual Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concerts;

• founding in 1977 the International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame, which displays in Pitt’s William Pitt Union artifacts donated by jazz legends and which honors new inductees every year (one living and one deceased) who have made exceptional contributions to jazz;

• founding the Pitt Jazz Ensemble, which comprises dedicated Pitt student jazz musicians and vocalists who present an annual concert on campus every spring and have performed internationally in Brazil, Jamaica, Switzerland, and Trinidad;

• building the state-of-the-art William R. Robinson Recording Studio, located in Pitt’s Bellefield Hall, which provides students with hands-on education in recording techniques;

• launching the peer-reviewed International Jazz Archives Journal, which offers research on jazz scholarship, publishes manuscripts of the music of internationally acclaimed jazz musicians, and is distributed around the world to 20 countries;

• composing Jazzopera: Just Above My Head—a unique operatic fusion of jazz, gospel, Western classical music, and modern dance—which premiered in Pittsburgh in 2004 and had musical elements the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said “were woven wonderfully into the story line, providing tension, tenderness, and jubilation”;

• joining with the International Music Council of UNESCO to host an event at Paris-Sorbonne University in September 2004 that included a concert, roundtable discussion, and master classes by jazz artists for students from throughout the world;

• composing the cello-piano duet Matryoshka Blues commissioned by Russian cellist Misha Quint, who premiered the piece in January 2013 at the InterHarmony International Music Festival in New York City’s Carnegie Hall and whose latest CD also contains the piece; and

• serving as faculty director for the Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as a jazz master faculty member at the annual Ravinia Festival in Chicago, as musical director for the Thelonious Monk Institute’s Steans Music Institute Summer Jazz Program in Aspen, Colo., and as an artist at the new Jazz Masters München Program held in March 2013 in Munich, Germany.

“Of all the things I’ve done, the one I’ve enjoyed the most is teaching the history of jazz to undergraduate students,” said Davis, whose introductory jazz history course has always been one of the most popular at Pitt. “I’ve seen young people in the airports in London, or in the audience in Paris, or even members of a TV crew at a special concert in Bahrain—all were former students of mine who came up to me and said they took that course. That showed me the connections we’ve been making.”

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