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Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 2

Karl Ackermann By

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Atop this talented collective sit Doug Munro, the founder of Jazz Studies Program at Purchase, and Pete Malinverni, the Coordinator and Head of Jazz Studies, who together represent the full spectrum of the school's program from inception to present day. Malinverni—who earned is his Master's degree through the Purchase Conservatory—is an impressively accomplished pianist and trio leader. While under-recognized as a recording artist, his Autumn in New York (Reservoir, 2002) garnered him critical praise both as a composer and musician. His Theme and Variations (Reservoir, 2006) was lauded for its masterful blend of classical and jazz influences in a solo setting. His affinity for a different amalgamation—sacred music and jazz—was successfully achieved with Joyful! (ArtistShare, 2007), a quintet outing that included Coolman (the previous Head of Jazz Studies) and Malinverni's vocalist wife Jody Sandhaus. Munro and Malinverni were well acquainted prior to their shared experience at Purchase as Munro mentored the pianist at an early age. Munro, a guitar virtuoso with credits on more than sixty recordings, has worked with an top-tier, cross-genre roster of artists including B.B.King, Eddie Gomez, Dr. Lonnie Smith, David "Fathead" Newman, Michael Urbaniak, Randy Brecker and Michael Brecker, Cornell Dupree, David Sanborn, Noel Redding, Todd Rundgren, Ron Wood, Toots Thielemans and Allen Toussaint. As a leader, he had received critical praise for his eclectic style on two of his Chase Music Group releases, The Blue Lady (1995) and Up Against It (2003). Munro is also a long-time staff member at Litchfield Jazz Camp, having been part of that faculty since 2009.

This past fall I interviewed Malinverni and Munro on a host of topics regarding jazz education at Purchase. Munro re-counts the beginnings of the program. "I started teaching at Purchase in 1989 as a part-time adjunct faculty in the Studio Composition Department. There was no Jazz Department then, only a few elective courses. In 1992 we got a new Dean of Music, Donald Steven. He asked me if I would be interested in developing an Undergrad and Graduate degree program in Jazz Studies for Purchase College. I spent the entire year, with the help of Dean Steven and my faculty mentor, James McElwaine, writing what would become our core curriculum. The program was officially launched in the spring semester, 1993. We started with 10 internal transfer students. The mission of the program was, and still is, to provide students, through teaching and mentoring, the skills and tools they would need to pursue a career as a professional musician. I directed the program for its first 10 years. I saw my role as being an advocate for our students, faculty and program. I was constantly trying to build the program towards, what I considered to be, our critical mass of 80 undergrads and 20 master's students. I was a tireless recruiter for our jazz program, trying to attract the best students and the best faculty to teach them. As the first Director I view my role as being one of builder. There have been three Directors of the Jazz Studies Program at Purchase. I was the first, bassist Todd Coolman, was the second Director. Todd took over the Directorship in 2003. I view Todd as being the force that made our Jazz Program great. Under Todd Coolman's direction and tireless work our program reached its current international status as a top Jazz Studies Program. In 2013 Pete Malinverni took over as our third Director. Todd and I were both overjoyed that Pete accepted the position. Pete had been teaching in the program for many years. We both felt that he had the vision and energy to take the Jazz Studies Program and put his own personal stamp on it. We are already seeing evidence of Pete's vision for what a Jazz Studies Program should be providing for its students in the current times. Pete has revamped and brought back our jazz vocal major. He also works across the campus bringing students from other programs into the jazz experience while taking our jazz students and giving them opportunities outside the traditional jazz curriculum. I am excited to see what the future holds for our program under Pete's impressive leadership."

Malinverni adds a pragmatic approach to the overall mission of the program. "I believe the most important thing we can do for our students is to provide as "real-world" an experience as possible in the classroom. The way I and many of my colleagues came up was by learning under the pressure of playing with unquestioned -and demanding! -masters. That paradigm is no longer as available to young musicians, as the touring band is less common these days. So, when a task is assigned in a class or rehearsal, we expect excellence and professional comportment. My specific role is that of guiding our program toward a model including that type of rigor but tempered with love—so the students know that, for now, with us, their mistakes will be corrected and their next attempts will be heard with fresh ears—a luxury not often found on the outside, where you make it happen now -or never."

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