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The New England Conservatory: A Tradition of Innovation

Acclaimed program celebrates four decades of groundbreaking jazz education

Blink and you might miss the New England Conservatory, three buildings of mismatched architectural style adjacent to Northeastern University in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. Yet this tiny school of 750 undergrad and graduate students serves a monumental role in American musical history. Not only is it the oldest conservatory in the United States, but in 1969 it became the first to offer a fully accredited jazz studies program-the creation of its then-president, the composer and jazz scholar Gunther Schuller.

Four decades after its founding, NEC’s jazz studies department is among the most acclaimed and successful in the world; so says the roster of visionary artists that have comprised both its faculty and alumni. This October sees a citywide series of concerts and events in Boston commemorating the program’s 40th anniversary, with a weeklong celebration in New York to follow in March.

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