Following the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective’s annual festival, hosted this weekend, students have voiced displeasure with the state of jazz at Yale.
Students said that while the festival reflects the growth of Yale’s jazz scene, there remain few academic and extracurricular offerings for young jazz musicians. Yale’s undergraduate Music Department lacks a formal jazz program, and student musicians interviewed said there are not enough jazz-related courses and undergraduate jazz ensembles on campus.
Former YUJC board member Ethan Kyzivat ’15 highlighted that most of the performers in the festival were from outside of Yale, noting that the University’s jazz scene is not large enough to supply the musicians required for such a festival.
“[The festival] is a good example of not being in the Yale bubble, because jazz is often such a marginalized part of the music community,” Kyzivat said.
Yale’s music major is classical, analytic and academic, and does not require that students be great performers, YUJC president Alexander Dubovoy ’16 said. He added that because Yale does not offer an academic certificate in jazz, more Yalies tend to go on to perform classical music than jazz.
Students interviewed said they think that Yale College should expand its curricular offerings for those interested in pursuing jazz, especially within the Music Department.
“There’s definitely room for [Yale’s jazz program] to grow, just because it’s not present,” said Griffin Brown ’18, who plays in several student jazz groups on campus.
Brown said he did not expect the curricular jazz program on campus to grow because Yale’s Music Department, like those of other Ivy League universities, is already heavily grounded in classical music. But Brown noted that in spite of the focus on classical music, the Ivy League has produced several great jazz musicians, including saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Vijay Iyer ’92.
Former YUJC member Julian Reid ’13 said there were only one or two classes that focused on jazz music while he was a student at Yale. Before the YUJC Jazz Festival was established, the Ellington Jazz Concert Series — founded in 1972 — was the only annual jazz performance event at Yale.
For the 2014–15 academic year, the undergraduate Music Department is offering only one jazz course per semester, music department professor Michael Veal’s “Jazz and Architecture” and “Conduction Ensemble.” Associate professor of music Brian Kane said that he, Veal and School of Music Professor Willie Ruff are currently working to make more jazz-related courses available at Yale.
But several students said they believe that the on-campus jazz scene has undergone considerable growth over recent years.
Max Vinetz ’18 plays bass in several undergraduate jazz groups, including Newspeak and Project 18A. He said that when he applied to Yale, he did not expect the University to have a large jazz culture. But at Bulldog Days, he found a “small, budding jazz community.”
“There does seem to be an upswing relative to where [Yale’s jazz community] was two or three years ago,” Brown said, adding that there are now more opportunities for undergraduates to play jazz.
The Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective has 70 listed members.