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UCLA and Kenny Burrell: A Merger In Jazz Education

Ed Hamilton on the creation of a jazz studies department at UCLA

A musical merger of higher education has been established at one of the last major universities to include jazz into their curriculum-UCLA. The Jazz Studies Dept. under Director Dr. Kenny Burrell, The Herb Alpert School of Music and the Thelonious Monk Institute guided by Herbie Hancock, have all joined forces in providing not only jazz, but all around musical learning for all students seeking the realms of higher educational degrees in music.

Jazz education was brought to UCLA when guitarist Kenny Burrell started teaching “Ellingtonia”, a class on Duke Ellington in 1978. “It was Thad Jones who turned my ear to the inner sound of Ellington; he was one of my heroes that really succeeded in the music business,” Burrell stated. “Number one, he is a jazz musician plus he is an African American, a citizen of the world, a role model, a great businessman. He is American many times over.” He presented the idea to Dr. Claudia Mitchell Kernan, Director of the Center on Afro-American Studies. With this brainchild, Burrell taught for 18 years until UCLA created the Jazz Studies Department in 1996, and appointed him Director. By this time he was a world-renowned performer and recording artist, who had recorded for the Blue Note and Verve labels with John Coltrane, Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine.

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