University of Pittsburgh

Nathan Davis

Professor, Emeritus
Director of Jazz Studies
PhD, Wesleyan University, 1974
ndavis [at] pitt [dot] edu


Jazz, African American Music.

Director, University of Pittsburgh Jazz Ensemble.


Nathan Davis is Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh where he directs the undergraduate Jazz Studies program and established the Ph.D. program in Jazz Studies. He is Chair and Founder of the University of Pittsburgh Annual Seminar on Jazz; Founder and Director of the University of Pittsburgh International Academy of Jazz; and Director of the University of Pittsburgh Sonny Rollins Jazz Archives. Davis founded the Jazz Studies Program at the Paris American Academy and has conducted field work in Ethnomusicology in Brazil, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, and the Caribbean Islands (Martinique, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago).

He received a certificate of Recognition for Contribution Towards the Unification of the African Community by the Black Action Society at the University of Pittsburgh in 1995. He was invited by the Belgium National Orchestra to compose and perform his symphony with orchestra. He also earned a National Endowment for the Arts Grant which enabled him to complete his “Symphony No. 1 for Orchestra and Jazz Soloist.” 

Davis is listed in Who’s Who in America (1975); Outstanding Educators of America (1975); 1,000 Successful Blacks (1975); Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties and Seventies; and Who’s Who in the World of Music.  As a saxophonist, Davis has performed both nationally and internationally including France, Switzerland, Japan, Spain, and Germany.  With a grant from Gulf Oil Corporation, he recorded and produced an LP entitled Nathan Davis:  A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  for the annual “Hand in Hand” celebration of Martin Luther King Week.  His recording, I’m A Fool to Love You, can be found on the Tomorrow International, Inc. label, with Grover Washington, Jr. as a special guest.  In 2005, Davis released The Other Side of Morning and most recently released Parisian Hoedown, both on the Tomorrow International, Inc.  label, as well.

Recent Courses

  • History of Jazz
  • African American Musi
  • Jazz Improvisation
  • Jazz Arranging
  • Saxophone

Selected Honors/Awards

Ford Foundation Grants to establish the University of Pittsburgh International Academy of Jazz, 1999, 2000, 2002.

Ford Foundation Grant to establish the University of Pittsburgh Jazz Outreach Program, 2003.

Robert M. Frankel Award of City Theatre, Pittsburgh, 1995.

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship, 1984.

Selected Publications

Writings in Jazz (6th ed., Kendall/Hunt, 2002).

African American Music in Society (Simon & Schuster Custom Publishing, 1996).

International Jazz Archives Journal, founder and editor.

Selected Recordings and Video

"Live:" Jazz at Pitt: The 25th Anniversary Concert CD (Pittsburgh, 1995). Celebration of the Silver Anniversary of the Jazz Seminar and Concert at the University of Pittsburgh.

London by Night Sound Recording (London, 1987).

Roots: Salute to the Saxophone. Video Recording (Eagle Rock Entertainment, 1992).

Kings on the Hill: Baseball's Forgotten Men. Video Recording. Music by Nathan Davis. (San Pedro Productions, 1993).


Just Above My Head. Opera based on the novel by James Baldwin. (Pittsburgh, 1985).

Symphony No. 1 for Orchestra and Jazz Soloists.


Nathan Davis has performed widely throughout the world, most recently in Berlin, Paris, Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Cologne.

He has led the University of Pittsburgh Jazz Ensemble in concerts in Jamaica every summer for the past 14 years.


Outreach programs in Dubai, Ghana, Bahia, and Jordan.

Founding director, annual University of Pittsburgh Jazz Seminar and Concert, which for 39 years has brought together some of the world's leading jazz performers to work with students and to perform together.

Founder, University of Pittsburgh's International Academy of Jazz/Hall of Fame and the Sonny Rollins International Jazz Archives.

Faculty member, Ravinia Summer Jazz Program.

Director of Faculty, John F. Kennedy Center's Jazz Ahead Program.

Past Director, Thelonius Monk Institute at Aspen.

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