Billy EckstineVaughn Monroe

Ken Schaphorst and the NEC Jazz Orchestra draw on New England Conservatory’s exclusive archive of Vaughn Monroe charts, alongside hits by Billy Eckstine – two of the most popular singing stars of the 1940s – in the Music of Vaughn Monroe + Billy Eckstine, a free concert on Thursday, October 17 at NEC’s Jordan Hall, 290 Huntington Avenue, Boston. The concert begins at 8 p.m. For more information, log on to or call 617-585-1260.

Vaughn Monroe came to New England Conservatory in 1935 to pursue his dream of becoming an opera singer. Five years later years he formed his own big band in Boston and began recording a series of hits for RCA Victor. He continued to have a base there as a nightclub owner but his reach was much broader thanks to his role as a television host and performer, and his many hit recordings, most notably “Racing with the Moon,” which leads off this concert. Although he only studied at NEC for one semester, Vaughn Monroe’s archives were donated to the school after his death. This will be the first concert featuring that donated music.

Another noted vocalist and brass player, Billy Eckstine led one of the most influential big bands in the history of jazz, featuring such giants as Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker and Sarah Vaughn. He notably broke a color barrier by becoming the first African-American singer to introduce new songs over network radio. The NEC Jazz Orchestra will perform Eckstine’s hits, including “I Want to Talk About You” and “Jelly, Jelly,” as well as the early bebop classics “Cool Breeze” and “Oo Bop Sh’bam.”

NEC’s Jazz Studies Department was the first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory. The brainchild of Gunther Schuller, who moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum when he became President of the Conservatory in 1967, the Jazz Studies faculty has included six MacArthur “genius” grant recipients (three currently teaching) and four NEA Jazz Masters, and alumni that reads like a who’s who of jazz. Now in its 44th year, the program has spawned numerous Grammy winning composers and performers. As Mike West writes in JazzTimes: “NEC’s jazz studies department is among the most acclaimed and successful in the world; so says the roster of visionary artists that have comprised both its faculty and alumni.” The program currently has 114 students; 67 undergraduate and 47 graduate students from 12 countries.

# # #