The University of Pittsburgh’s jazz program is among one of the oldest collegiate jazz programs in the country. The program was founded in 1969 by saxophonist and music educator Dr. Nathan Davis. Under Dr. Davis' leadership, Pitt became the nation’s third university music department to establish a formal jazz curriculum. As Dr. Davis led and grew the program over the course of forty-four years until his retirement in 2013, he established a jazz ensemble, a scholastic jazz journal, the International Jazz Hall of Fame, and the Annual Jazz Seminar and Concert. He brought international recognition to the Pitt Jazz program through tours of the jazz seminar and performances in Jamaica, Ghana and Paris. In 2013, world renowned jazz pianist and Pitt alumna, Geri Allen, took over as director of the program until her death in 2017. The program is currently led by its third director, award-winning jazz flautist and composer Nicole Mitchell Gantt.
International Sonny Rollins Jazz Archives
University of Pittsburgh holds the incredible archive of Erroll Garner, a great virtuoso of the jazz legacy and a Pittsburgh Hill District Native. In June 2015, in honor of what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday, it was annouced that his lawyer Martha Glaser's estate had selected Pitt as the permanent home for this incredible archive.
The University of Pittsburgh-Sonny Rollins International Jazz Archives house important artifacts from the world of jazz, including original manuscripts, historic recordings, photographs, autographed concert posters, musical instruments and personal items donated by jazz pioneers and their families. It is one of the premier collections of jazz-related memorabilia in the world. Highlights of the collection include a letter from Kenny Clarke to Charlie Parker, an original painting by Miles Davis, and Sonny Rollins' saxophone. Click Here to start your journey through the archives.
International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame
In 1977, Pitt Jazz, under the leadership of Dr. Nathan Davis, established the International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame to honor artists who have made extraordinary contributions to the musical genre. When the hall of fame was founded it was the first of its kind on any college campus. The hall of fame’s inaugural inductees were five indisputable jazz legends: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, and Billie Holiday. Two new members are added to the hall of fame’s ranks each year based on the votes of an international committee of jazz experts. The yearly inductions were often celebrated in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh's Annual Jazz Seminar. In 1984 the International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame unveiled a permanent display in the William Pitt Union. The display, which is open to the public, contains unique memorabilia and artifacts.