Thelonious Monk jazz program moves from Los Angeles university to one in New Orleans

One of jazz’s most prestigious organizations is on its way to the genre’s spiritual home.

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz is relocating its performance program from Los Angeles to New Orleans’ Loyola University.

To celebrate the move, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter and trumpeter Terence Blanchard _ a New Orleans native _ planned to join the program’s incoming class for a performance at Loyola on Monday.

Only a handful of students are chosen for the graduate-level college program, previously based at the University of Southern California. The selection process lasts for several months and includes several national and regional auditions.

“It’s the best out there,” said Elizabeth Dalferes, a spokeswoman for Loyola, where the program will be based for the next four years.

Dalferes said several factors led the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz to move its jazz performance program to New Orleans. Among them: the city’s appreciation for jazz, its mission to preserve jazz music and heritage and the space and programs already available at Loyola, she said. The institute also recognizes there is a need for music mentors in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, scattering many of the city’s musicians, Dalferes said. Hoping to help fill that void, the institute’s students will work with the city’s young musicians and promote jazz in schools.

The celebration Monday also was to include the launch of the institute’s “Jazz in America” program with performances for New Orleans area high school students by jazz saxophonist Bobby Watson and singer Lisa Henry.

The institute’s new class, to be named on Monday, will live in New Orleans for two to four years, studying jazz performance and working with young people in the local school system.

Students of the institute will also participate in national tours to classrooms in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other cities with a strong need for public arts education, Dalferes said.

The institute is a nonprofit educational organization created in 1986 in memory of Thelonious Monk, the jazz pianist and composer who believed the best way to learn jazz was from a master of the music.


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