MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Great Ideas Change the World

The Listening Room | Jazz


Timeline | History of Jazz at MIT


2013 marked the 50th anniversary of formal jazz study and performance in Music and Theater Arts at MIT. Although jazz had been performed on campus for several decades before 1963, that year marked the arrival of Herb Pomeroy, and the formation of the group now known as the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble.

The timeline represents major activities, awards, and honors celebrated by the Festival Jazz Ensemble, MIT Music and Theater Arts, and the MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences over the past 5+ decades.   

Production credits: timeline created by Vanessa Gardner of the MIT Concerts Office, with input and research from Forrest Larson, Frederick Harris, Mark Harvey, Clarise Snyder and various FJE alumni. 



Peter Godart ’15

Monk's Dream
Thelonius Monk (1917–1982)

Performed by Emerson Scholar, Peter Godart '15, piano

MIT CMS Jazz Combo

El Ron
Alan Evans

Stephen Allsop, piano; Manuel Aristaran, bass; Clark Davenport, drums; Dennis Miaw, guitar; Sahin Naqvi, alto saxophone; Jim Van Deventer, tenor saxophone. All performers, MIT graduate students.

Keala Kaumeheiwa, Coach
December 2, 2014

Festival Jazz Ensemble, 1987

Marcus Miller, composer 
Eric Ostling, arr.

Jamshied Sharifi, conductor

Dave Ricks, SB, SM, Ph.D., trumpet
Ray Zepeda,'88 SB, soprano saxophone
(pictured in photograph, by Scott Lichtman)

"'Tutu' was being played frequently on WGBH radio that year, and we were thrilled that Eric Ostling scored such an unusual part for the horns, and let the rhythm section have free reign with the groove."   
— Scott Lichtman, member of the FJE, 1987 

Thelonius Monk, 1947

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Thelonious Monk
Jeff Friedman, arr.

Herb Pomeroy, conductor
April 1981

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Sig Ep
John Cale
Everett Longstreth, guest conductor

Frederick Harris, Music Director
May, 2008

MIT Jazz Ensemble, Olivia Bishop on trombone

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Portrait of Jenny
Russell Robinson & Gordon Burdge
Kenny Werner, arr.

Frederick Harris, Music Director
April, 2012

Jamashied Sharafi, composer

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Jamshied Sharifi
James O'Dell, guest conductor

Frederick Harris, Music Director
April 2005

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Go On
Composed and conducted by Jamshied Sharifi

James O'Dell, Music Director (1992-1999)
May, 1992

MIT Jazz Combo

Tombo in 7/4

Frederick Harris, Music Director
Spring 2012

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Adrian Grossman, '14

Frederick Harris, Music Director
Spring 2012

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Hermanos Latinos
Hermeto Pascoal
arr. by Guillermo Klein

Frederick Harris, Music Director
Fall 2011

Dylan Sherry '12 and Adrian Grossman '14

John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Friday the 13th
Theolonius Monk

Performed by Emerson Scholars, Dylan Sherry '12, saxophone; Adrian Grossman '14, electric bass

MIT Jazz Combo

Jump Skip
Robert McQueen
Keala Kaumeheiwa, coach

Nat Atnafu - Bass
David Garcia - Drums
Colleen Josephson - Baritone Saxophone
Anders Lee - Guitar
Rob McQueen - Piano


"In a never-ending pursuit to find equilibrium, Jump Skip is a funk tune that is most defined by the clashing beats of the melody and bass. The bass part acts as a backbone to the song and is spearheaded by both the upright bass and baritone saxophone. In contrast, the melody (by the piano) consistently finds itself a half-beat off the beat of the bass, resulting in an urge to "jump" back and "skip" ahead at the same time. The conflicting beats of the bass and melody are finally resolved by the drum, which takes hold of the song in a marching-band-style fashion."  Robert McQueen

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Blues and the Abstract Truth
Oliver Nelson

Frederick Harris, Music Director

MIT Jazz Combo

Nica's Dream
Horace Silver


MIT Jazz Combo

Adam Schwartz '10

Adam Schwartz, piano
Andrew Shum, alto
Anthony Morelli, alto
Clark Davenport, drums
David Garcia, drums
Ibrahim Badr, bass
Ken McEnaney, trombone
Marty Singh, guitar
Michael Grinich, piano
Ryan Morrow, tenor
Wei-Yang Sun, alto

"Rare began with a single idea: a five-note pattern—"12345"—alternating with a two-note pattern—"ab"—repeating idefinitely:1a2b3a4b5a1b2a3b4a5b. (Notice that since five is odd and two is even, it takes twenty notes for the pattern to repeat itself.) Ultimately, this idea spawned two similar but distinct Rare works: one for orchestra, and another for small jazz ensemble. Each work is a dissection of the pattern—a struggle to understand, both emotionally and computationally, what makes a theme built on such a simple idea so intoxicating."  —  Adam Schwartz | Polymath website

Dizzie Gillespie

MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble

Birk's Works
Dizzy Gillespie

Frederick Harris, Music Director

Birk's Works is a classic, minor blues composition from 1957 by John Birks (Dizzy) Gillespie. This arrangement by Mike Tomaro shifts from mambo to swing, and features tenor saxophone and trumpet.