Source: Chicago Tribune

For anyone who admires musical culture in general, jazz in particular, the news was startling:

In a preliminary report, the Office of the Provost at Columbia College Chicago has recommended closing the school’s Chicago Jazz Ensemble and Center for Black Music Research.

No other institution on the planet studies, archives, documents, disseminates, records and performs music from the vast diaspora of African-American culture as comprehensively as the Center for Black Music Research. And precious few ensembles in America regularly perform jazz orchestral works — historic and brand new — as brilliantly or innovatively as the Chicago Jazz Ensemble.

One hastens to note that the school’s “Blueprint: Prioritization” document, as first reported by the Tribune on Sunday, offers recommendations that will be studied by faculty and staff before Columbia President Warrick Carter and college trustees announce their final decision in June.

Yet those who have followed the CBMR since it was founded at Columbia in 1983 and the CJE since its inception there in 1965 (and its revival in the 1990s, after a period of dormancy) already grieve for the possible losses.

“I think it would be an absolute disgrace,” said David Baker, distinguished professor of music at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.

“It would be a blot on the city itself.”

Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music and a pianist who has performed with the CBMR’s Black Music Repertory Ensemble, echoed the sentiment.

“There would be no single source of documentation for students, for lovers of music, for scholars, experts to obtain this information,” she said, referring to the CBMR and its archival and performance resources.

“I feel we would be returning to the country’s horrendous past, where this kind of knowledge and documentation of black musicians was unavailable. It would be like going backwards.”

The “Blueprint: Prioritization” report lavishes high praise on the institutions it suggests eliminating. READ MORE