Princeton University’s Department of Music has named saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa Director of Jazz. Mahanthappa, who comes to Princeton with an extensive jazz background and a voice “intent on transcending cultural divides by hybridizing progressive jazz and non-Western musical traditions,” according to a press release, will begin his appointment as the Anthony H. P. Lee ’79 Senior Lecturer in Jazz Studies at the start of the fall term. He will succeed Dr. Anthony D. J. Branker, founder of the Program in Jazz Studies.
Recently, Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls was named Album of the Year in the 2015 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll. Additionally, that same year Mahanthappa joined the United States Fellows, the latest in a series of honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships and the highly coveted Doris Duke Performing Artist Award.
“Joining the Princeton University Music Department as Director of Jazz is an honor and a tremendous opportunity to influence and shape the future of jazz as a contemporary American art form,” Mahanthappa said in a press release. “Music at Princeton continues to put forth a forward-thinking energy with regard to performance, composition and musicology. I am truly excited to join this amazing group of faculty. Together, we can surely expand and embrace the ever-shifting roles of music in 21st-century global culture.”
Anchored by the 17-piece Concert Jazz Ensemble, the Program in Jazz at Princeton University, which encompasses the historical, cultural, social, theoretical, stylistic and creative aspects of jazz in both study and practice, is host to a wide array of smaller groups. These include the Jazz Composers Collective, Jazz Vocal Collective and Crossing Borders Improvisational Music Ensemble, among others.
In 2008, a multi-million-dollar gift established a Certificate in Jazz Studies, and as the program continues to expand and attract a number of prominent guest artists and lecturers, the department “is grateful to have one such distinguished performer in residence overseeing the directorship of jazz at Princeton,” according to a release announcing Mahanthappa’s appointment.