Brubeck's mother studied piano in England and intended to become a concert pianist; at home she taught piano for extra money. Brubeck was not particularly interested in learning by any particular method, but preferred to create his own melodies, and therefore avoided learning to read sheet music. In college Brubeck was nearly expelled when one of his professors discovered that he could not read sheet music. Several of his professors came forward arguing for his ability with counterpoint and harmony, but the school was still afraid that it would cause a scandal, and only agreed to let Brubeck graduate once he promised never to teach piano. After graduating from the University of the Pacific in 1942, Brubeck was drafted into the army and served overseas in George Patton's Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge. He played in a band, quickly integrating it and gaining both popularity and deference. He returned to college after serving nearly 4 years in the army, this time attending Mills College and studying under Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to study fugue and orchestration but not classical piano. (Oddly enough, most critics consider Brubeck something of a classical pianist playing jazz.)
After completing his studies under Milhaud, Brubeck signed with Berkeley, California's Fantasy Records. He started an octet including Cal Tjader and Paul Desmond. Highly experimental, the group made few recordings and got even fewer paying jobs. A bit discouraged, Brubeck started a trio with two of the members, not including Desmond, who had a gig of his own, and spent several years playing nothing but jazz standards. Brubeck then formed The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951, which consisted of Joe Dodge on drums, Bob Bates on bass, Paul Desmond on saxophone, and of course Brubeck on piano. They took up a long residency at San Francisco's Black Hawk nightclub and gained great popularity touring college campuses, recording a series of albums with such titles as Jazz at Oberlin, Jazz Goes to College and Jazz Goes to Junior College. In 1954 he was featured on the cover of Time Magazine, the first Jazz musician to be so honored. In the mid-1950s Bates and Dodge were respectively replaced by Eugene Wright and Joe Morello. Eugene Wright is African-American; in the late 1950s Brubeck cancelled many concerts because the club owners wanted him to bring a different bassist. He also cancelled a television appearance when he found out that the venue intended to keep Wright off-camera.