Dave Brubeck’s Legacy Enters a New Era


Dave Brubeck (1920–2012)

(Photo: DownBeat Archives)

Rowe—the former executive director of the Brubeck Institute who now is the executive director of the Roots, Jazz and American Music program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music—suggested that the relationship UOP had with such an iconic figure as Dave Brubeck was a huge coup, particularly in the jazz education world. “I expect there’s a bit of disappointment. Perhaps it’s a missed opportunity. But when I was there, the Brubeck Institute’s relationship with the university was above my pay grade. Universities are hierarchical, and people at the top make their own decisions.”

As of Jan. 1, a new setup will put a lot of those decisions into the hands of the family, which has created a 501(c)3 nonprofit institution called the Brubeck Living Legacy. It will replace and carry on the mantle of the old Brubeck Institute, but through a network of relationships. Chris Brubeck explained that it will have a wider and more flexible structure untethered form a single institution. To put it simply, the Brubeck Living Legacy intends to put wheels on what was once the Brubeck Institute and take jazz education “on the road.”

“Yes,” Brubeck said, “and to make it available to as many people who might be interested. That means developing a series of partnerships in different contexts, giving the education mission a mobility it didn’t have in one location.”

“The chance to partner with different organizations was a key part of our work with the Brubeck Institute,” Rowe said. “We found doors usually opened wide at the mention of the name Brubeck. So, it wasn’t difficult to find partners.”

And so they should again, especially in the year of the Brubeck centennial. “The Jazz Education Network meeting in New Orleans in January is a big event,” Chris Brubeck said, “and that’s exactly in the heart of where we need to be. Darius, Dan and I will be there reminding jazz educators of what’s going on with the new Brubeck Living Legacy and getting their ideas on how we can creatively partner up to do some things together.” Directly after New Orleans, the Brubecks will kick off the centennial year at Dizzy’s in New York, and from there join the jazz cruise aboard the ship Celebrity Infinity for another Brubeck celebration.

The biggest item on the Living Legacy calendar so far is the first Brubeck Jazz Summit, a major jazz summer camp in association with Classical Tahoe and Sierra Nevada College. It’s an extension of what formerly was called the Brubeck Jazz Colony, where 30 young people would gather from around the world under the umbrella of the Brubeck Institute. “We’re basically keeping this tradition of intensive study for one week alive,” said Rowe, who will serve as artistic director for the camp. (Details are posted at classicaltahoe.org.)

At the time DownBeat interviewed Chris, he was looking ahead to another partnership, the Dave Brubeck Symposium held in October 2019 at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. It was one of the rare occasions when all the Brubeck brothers, as well as Cathy, have gathered together for a public event.

For the foreseeable future, Dave Brubeck’s legacy will be in the charge of the Brubeck Living Legacy and his five children, all with lives and careers of their own. Beyond that, plans are still being developed. Among the Brubeck Institute’s many accomplishments were the cataloging and digitizing of the vast archive Iola Brubeck gathered. It is now in the “cloud” and will be accessible to researchers through the Brubeck Living Legacy website.

“I have a little bit of an emotional response to the demise of the Brubeck Institute,” Rowe said. “But my overarching feeling is that things change and evolve. The advent of Brubeck Living Legacy is a new day and a new way forward. So, I think that’s more important than what’s past or might have been. The main thing now is what could be.” DB

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