by Scott Gotschall and Tom Walsh
At the 2016 Jazz Celebration concert on April 23, seven individuals were inducted into the inaugural class of the Jacobs School of Music Jazz Alumni Hall of Fame: Jamey Aebersold, Buddy Baker, the late David Baker, Jerry Coker, Roger Pemberton, Whit Sidener, and Dominic Spera. Individually, they are pioneering authors, a leading publisher, prolific composer/arrangers, outstanding performers, and influential jazz educators and arts advocates. They have established and led some of the country’s most vibrant jazz studies programs, and their students have gone on to be Grammy Award winning performers and award winning composers, arrangers, authors, and educators who continue to spread the gospel of jazz. The collective impact of their work has reached many thousands of musicians around the world and it establishes the historical importance of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music as a significant fountainhead for jazz education.
The Jazz Celebration included a panel discussion with the five Jazz Alumni Hall of Fame inductees who were able to attend the event: Roger Pemberton, Dominic Spera, Whit Sidener, Buddy Baker, and Jamey Aebersold. There was much laughter as they shared remarkable stories about their time at IU.
The history of the IU Jazz Studies department began over 60 years ago. Remarkably, three of the newly inducted Jazz Alumni Hall of Fame members were students together at IU in 1950: Buddy Baker, Jerry Coker, and David Baker. In 1959, after completing his master’s degree, Buddy Baker was invited by Dean Wilfred Bain to lead a jazz band as the beginning of a new jazz program. Roger Pemberton joined him on faculty in 1961, teaching jazz arranging and composition and becoming the first to teach saxophone at Indiana University. While a student in Roger Pemberton’s saxophone studio, Jamey Aebersold became the first to perform jazz on a degree recital at Indiana University. He completed his master’s degree in 1962. Buddy Baker left IU in January of 1965 and Jerry Coker was appointed to teach jazz ensemble. Whit Sidener was a student at that time and played in the jazz ensemble led by Coker on a historic tour of the Near East and South Asia in the spring of 1966. Coker left IU in 1966 to start the jazz program at the University of Miami. Sidener followed him and subsequently joined the faculty at Miami and ultimately became a long-serving chair of the jazz department there. With Coker’s departure from IU, David Baker was hired to teach jazz courses at IU in 1966. The Jazz Studies degree was implemented in 1968 and David Baker remained chair of the program until 2013.Dominic Spera was a graduate student in the mid-1960s, leading the second jazz ensemble, and he joined the jazz department faculty in 1977 and remained until his retirement in 1997.
The influence these early pioneers of jazz education have had on the field is immeasurable. We are proud to recognize these seven performers, educators, and innovators as the first class of the IU Jazz Alumni Hall of Fame. You can find our new page honoring these seven inductees from the “History” section on our department homepage here.
Dean Gwyn Richards and Jazz Studies Chair Tom Walsh presented the awards.