Stevie Wonder and Bill Cosby to Appear at Jazz Themed Celebration at Oberlin

Wonder and Cosby to receive honorary degrees and to perform at opening of new home for jazz studies at Oberlin

Architectural drawing of the Litoff Building, courtesy of Westlake Reed Leskosky
Robin Eubanks, photo  courtesy of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music

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Stevie Wonder and Bill Cosby will each give performances and receive honorary degrees from Oberlin College during the school’s grand opening celebration of its new home for jazz studies. The two-day celebration, scheduled for April 30 and May 1, will honor the new Litoff Building and include concerts, jazz films, workshops, a panel discussion and the honorary degree ceremony.

The Litoff Building is just nearing completion this spring and was designed by architectural firm Westlake Reed Leskosky. In addition to housing the Oberlin Conservatory of Music’s Department of Jazz Studies, the building also has a state-of-the-art recording studio and the James and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection, the largest privately held jazz recording collection in the United States. The Litoff building promotes green building practices and sustainable strategies, and aims to be the first music facility to attain the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

The building pays tribute to the late Phyllis Litoff, a beloved New York City jazz impresario and co-owner of the famed jazz club Sweet Basil, and Wendell Logan, a professor of African American Music and Chair of the Jazz Studies Department, who has been at Oberlin for 35 years.

The celebration kicks off Friday at 4 p.m. when the college bestows honorary degrees on Wonder, and Cosby and his wife Camille. The Drs. Cosby will be receiving the Doctorate of Humanities conferred by Dr. Johnnetta Cole, in honor of their contributions as artists, educators and philanthropists. Wonder will be receiving the Doctorate of Music conferred by Professor Logan for his distinguished career as a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, as well as his humanitarian efforts, and philanthropic leadership.

The Jazz Film Mo’ Better Blues, featuring Denzel Washington and directed by Spike Lee, will be shown Friday night at 7 p.m. and a show business comedy routine called “An Evening with Bill Cosby” begins at 8:30 p.m.

Saturday’s events include the Litoff Building dedication ceremony, tours and open house; a one-on-one with Oberlin graduate and American History X actor Avery Brooks who will address his career and the challenges that face young artists; a screening of the Jazz Film ‘Round Midnight; and a panel discussion on green building and architectural design. The weekend ends with the celebratory concert on Saturday night headlined by Wonder.

All events are either free or $5. More information can be found on Celebrate Oberlin.