Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz to begin partnership with UCLA in 2012

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In a move that could represent a new high-water mark for jazz education in Los Angeles, UCLA will announce Wednesday that it is forming a new partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at its Herb Alpert School of Music. In an effort facilitated by Alpert along with institute Chairman Herbie Hancock and Kenny Burrell (who is director of jazz studies at UCLA), the program will create a new master’s of music in jazz degree at UCLA beginning in fall 2012.

‘I think that we have probably the best situation for the institute and also vice versa,’ Burrell said by phone between classes in Westwood (Burrell and Alpert also serve on the institute’s advisory board.) ‘I think that UCLA, especially with the new development of the Herb Alpert School of Music, we’re in a good position for growth right now.’

A nonprofit organization dedicated to jazz education that offers full scholarships to its students, the Thelonious Monk Institute has fostered a wealth of up-and-coming jazz talent, including winners of the institute’s international jazz competition Ambrose Akinmusire, Gretchen Parlato and Jon Irabagon. The announcement marks a high-profile return to L.A. for the institute, which was part of USC’s Thornton School of Music for eight years before relocating to New Orleans in 2007.

The institute’s West Coast director, Daniel Seeff, said the institute will retain an outreach presence in the New Orleans education system after the move to UCLA, much like its programs in select LAUSD schools and L.A. County High School for the Arts since leaving USC four years ago. UCLA’s program will be marked by instruction by established artists such as Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Danilo Perez along with performances across the country. Students will also provide free music instruction at an L.A. public school at least once a week.


‘I think it’ll be very exciting for [jazz fans],’ Burrell said of the upcoming partnership. ‘It will also provide an additional incentive for them to look at the university -- not just UCLA but USC, CalArts, and others -- [and see] that there is this exciting jazz on campus. Some people think it’s separate from ‘real jazz,’ but I don’t think so. That’s one of the ways jazz is becoming part of the serious culture of our country.’


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-- Chris Barton