In January, the Peabody Conservatory announced that the acclaimed trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and educator Sean Jones has been appointed Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair in Jazz Studies. Jones brings extensive credentials to the role, including his work as artistic director of both the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra and Carnegie Hall’s nyo Jazz, as a member of the sfjazz Collective, and as a member of the board of directors for the Jazz Education Network. He also holds two degrees in classical trumpet.
“With the new Breakthrough Curriculum, Peabody is looking to develop synergies across the program and throughout the Conservatory,” notes Jones. “I feel like I am uniquely equipped to help with that, with my background in both classical and jazz performance. Everything I have done has led me to this opportunity.”
Jones comes to Peabody from the Berklee College of Music, where he has served as chair of the Brass Department since 2014. He will officially assume his duties at Peabody with the beginning of the 2018–19 academic year and is making several introductory visits to Baltimore during the spring 2018 semester to hear auditions, conduct master classes, work with student jazz ensembles, and expand his network in the city.
“Baltimore is an amazing city, and its jazz scene has an earthiness to it that I’ve always been drawn to,” he adds, noting that he works regularly with Baltimore-based jazz musicians, including Peabody Preparatory alumnus Warren Wolf, bassist Kris Funn, and saxophonist Tim Green.
It follows, then, that one of Jones’ priorities for the jazz program is to strengthen the connections between Peabody students and the larger jazz community in Baltimore. “I want to get students out into the community for jam sessions, performances, going into the schools,” he says. “I’m very community-minded, and you will definitely see that in my syllabus.”
Noting that community connectivity and interdisciplinary experiences are two of the driving forces behind the creation of the Breakthrough Curriculum, Peabody Dean Fred Bronstein says of Jones: “Sean is the perfect choice to lead this effort for our jazz students and all our Conservatory musicians, as well as in the broader community. Peabody’s strong commitment to jazz and its critical points of intersection with many different aspects of musical creation and performance, along with our focus on citizen artistry, make this an ideal time and place to mark a new chapter for jazz at Peabody and in Baltimore. We are thrilled to welcome Sean to Peabody and eagerly anticipate his leadership.”
For Jones, the biggest thing is what lies ahead. “There’s a certain energy on the campus that’s happening right now. People are poised to try new things — staying true to the Conservatory model but expanding on that, getting into more technology, breaking down the walls between genres. There’s a certain excitement that’s really intriguing.”
“Peabody is at a crucial time in its history,” he concludes, “and I want to be on the front lines to help make that change possible.”
— Tiffany Lundquist