University of Pittsburgh

History of Jazz Wins "Best Class"

The Department of Music’s History of Jazz course has been selected “Best Class” by readers of The Pitt News in the campus paper’s annual “Best of…” issue. The Pitt News editorial staff describes the course as “a crowd pleaser” where students learn about the “most talented artists in one of music’s most influential genres.”

Developed 44 years ago by Professor of Music Emeritus Nathan Davis, the History of Jazz Course has grown into the largest course offered by the Department, serving some 350 students each semester and requiring a compliment of eight teaching assistants/fellows and faculty members to cover lectures and recitations. 

This year Dr. Doretta Whalen stepped into the role of primary lecturer for History of Jazz. As a graduate student at Pitt, Whalen was a Teaching Assistant for the course with Nathan Davis. She also draws on her expertise as both a jazz vocal performer and veteran teacher. Reflecting on teaching History of Jazz, Whalen says,

"My favorite part is relating to students. I love that they teach me. Every student learns that there are real connections between the course material and his or her own life experience. Jazz is beautiful music that is very much alive in our culture." 

As Geri Allen steps into her role as the new Director of Jazz Studies she sees the History of Jazz Course continuing to play a formative role in Pitt’s undergraduate curriculum.

“For the past 44 years the History of Jazz course, under the direction of its author, Dr. Davis, has given us a panoramic view of African-American culture and life through the study of Jazz in America," says Allen.

"We look forward to continuing this ideal, by taking a closer look at the ever evolving, global advances of Jazz—a national treasure—through the lens of today's Jazz musicians.”

Congratulations to Dr. Davis, Dr. Whalen, and all the TAs and TFs who have made such significant contributions to this successful course. And we look forward to a new era of expanding the impact and knowledge of Jazz at Pitt as Geri Allen steps in as Director of Jazz Studies.

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