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No More Wild Scats

By Julene McCoy in Arts & Entertainment on May 21, 2007 9:14PM

2007_05_jazz.jpgNorthwestern University has decided to discontinue its Jazz Studies undergraduate major for next year after closing the search for a new director. The jazz department had been searching for a new leader since the departure of its director, Don Owens, in 2005. Jazz studies enrollment has been around 12-14 students in the last couple of years with only two freshman entering the program this year and no prospective students passing the auditions for next year's class. The previously enrolled students will be able to complete their degrees and the Music Department will continue to carry a jazz minor and operate the jazz band.

We feel it is disheartening for Northwestern to lose this program since jazz has a vital and important connection to the city of Chicago. Brett Johnson, one of the two freshman Jazz Studies students, laments, “…you have to immerse yourself in jazz and that style. With no other peers to look up to and learn from, it’s going to be difficult for me to develop as fully as I should. Jazz essentially is communication, and they’re cutting off people for me to communicate with.”

Chicagoist doesn’t know all the answers, nor the implications of a major university cutting one of their programs. Is this just the market righting itself due to declining popularity of jazz and classical music? Should there be a more concerted effort to teach and protect America’s art form?

Update: There's some good discussion going on in the comments and Josh Moshier sent us this link to the Friends of NU Jazz website where more information is available. Listen to today (Tues., May 22) from 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. for further discussion about the decision to end the Jazz Studies major and to hear those NU Jazz majors play some of their recordings.