Music Inn - A Documentary Film - History


The School Of Jazz

In 1956 twenty-four musicians joined in a jam session recorded by the Voice of America as the “Historic Jazz Concert at Music Inn”; the Modern Jazz Quartet was named “Quartet in Residence at Music Inn”; and the August “Jazz Roundtable” planted the seed for the School of Jazz. The following year the Barbers appointed John Lewis as Artistic Director and J. Foster as Administrative Dean of the school.

The School of Jazz explored the music's history and contemplated its future. Traditional jazz musicians and next generation musicians talked and played together at the School, often for the first time.  They discovered in these sessions that while their styles were totally unalike, they shared common roots.  As Charles Mingus discovered with joy and surprise, “I have roots, man, I have roots!”

The school was a place where promising young musicians were taught by a faculty of the world's greatest jazz masters – Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Oscar Peterson, Jimmy Giuffre, Gunther Schuller, and John Lewis, among others.  Together they explored jazz music from many perspectives.  Lecture topics ranged from "Primitive Beginnings of Jazz" to "The Relationship of Jazz to Classical Music.”  And they taught many of the next generation of jazz greats – School of Jazz alumni like Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and Dave Baker.

The School of Jazz and the roundtables inspired the introduction of jazz studies in major universities and conservatories, and it hastened the collapse of the artistic and social barriers between the classical world and the jazz world. The integration of related disciplines – improvisation, composition, theory, and history – into a single course of study, provided the perfect model for jazz instruction.

“The School of Jazz was a groundbreaking experiment, and although it lasted only a short time, its impact was felt far beyond the confines of Music Inn…The opportunity to form the Jazz Workshop and the School of Jazz was an incredible present from God and I didn’t ask any questions…” —John Lewis, Modern Jazz Quartet

Next: The Founders