Over the years, the Pitt Jazz program has perhaps become best known for its long running jazz seminar and concert. The event, now a staple of the Pittsburgh music scene, sprang from an impromptu event over forty years ago when Pittsburgh native and legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers were playing a date in Pittsburgh's Hill District. Dr. Davis, who had formerly toured with Blakey, approached the musician and asked if he could give a workshop to some of his jazz students. Despite the short notice, it was an overwhelming success. The success of Art Blakey’s lecture prompted Dr. Davis to design and propose an annual university event that would bring multiple artists to the university each year. The plans eventually culminated in the University of Pittsburgh's Jazz Seminar. The annual seminar included workshops given by professional jazz artists, where they are able to impart invaluable knowledge of their craft and the music industry to students, music educators, and the public, and a concluding ‘all-star’ concert to wrap up the weekend. The Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert has hosted a number of jazz legends including, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, Kenny Clarke and Grover Washington, Jr.
The University of Pittsburgh’s Annual Jazz Seminar is a musical convergence that stimulates creativity, unifies diverse communities, entertains and stimulates creativity throughout the city of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas through the celebration of jazz and the African American cultural legacy. It embodies the university’s values of diversity and inclusion, respecting Pittsburgh’s rich traditions and fostering collaborative excellence and impact.
The Annual Jazz Seminar and Concert aims to be one of University of Pittsburgh’s greatest community offerings to the city of Pittsburgh. Jazz has been key to our nation’s development into a multicultural society, through its power of promoting understanding through friendship in a creative environment of improvisation, vulnerability and creativity. The Annual Jazz Seminar and Concert is an important contributor to Pittsburgh’s ongoing jazz legacy, bringing pride and attracting tourism to the city. The Seminar provides an important platform to herald the great contributions of the contemporary African American cultural legacy through jazz performance and community interaction.