Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media

As Americans Mourn:


The faculty and staff of the Department of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media of the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester are deeply saddened by the events that have taken place across our nation during the past two weeks, many of which are in response to the senseless death of George Floyd. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, and with all Americans who are, understandably, frustrated and angry about the institutional violence, police brutality and policies of excessive social and economic inequality that have become all too commonplace in our society. Clearly these realities disproportionately affect Black Americans. As we know, such injustices have been ongoing for centuries. We can only hope that what appears to be a greater willingness to improve the racial climate in our society will translate into positive social and political action sooner rather than later.


The music that is central to our entire curriculum was pioneered and developed primarily by Black Americans. Our faculty and students are immersed in the study, practice and performance of the improvisations, compositions and arrangements of iconic Black jazz artists from the earliest recordings to the present. We benefit greatly from the humanity and creativity of visiting Black jazz artists we invite on a regular basis as guest lecturers and soloists to work with our small and large ensembles and to speak on issues from improvisation and composition to social justice. We are truly grateful to be able to share this musical legacy and to participate in and celebrate its ongoing evolution, as it contributes so much to the enrichment of our academic institutions and the professional artistic community. Indeed, the language and attitude of jazz music continues to inspire audiences and influence musical cultures throughout the world. We will encourage our students to take advantage of courses offered by the University of Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Institute in order to become more aware of the sociological and historical context of Black American music.


This music has often been vitally connected to social protest, especially since the Civil Rights Movement of the mid 1950s. Many songs from the blues and gospel music convey attitudes of irrepressible persistence in overcoming adversity and prejudice. “We Shall Overcome” can still be heard in the protests of recent days. We must continue to fully support freedom of expression and non-violent protest, without which some of our most precious civil rights may become endangered.

The mission of the Eastman School of Music begins with the challenge, “to create a musical community that is rich with cultural, social and intellectual diversity.” As musicians and as human beings, we must become instruments for positive change, beginning with our own thoughts, feelings and actions. We must encourage honest and sincere dialogue among our students, alumni, faculty, staff, administration and the greater Rochester community, in a manner that actively seeks the inclusion of all our people. By asserting our solidarity with the Black community, we enthusiastically support a culture of inclusion, social equality and intellectual freedom. With these ideals in mind, we will work together toward a richer and more inclusive community within our department, within our school and within our nation.




The Eastman School of Music is proud to announce the creation of the Snooky Young Endowed Scholarship, in honor of one of the foremost influences for lead trumpet in jazz orchestras.  Clay and Betty Jenkins established this scholarship to support jazz majors at Eastman from historically underrepresented populations.


Snooky Young played lead trumpet for the Jimmie Lunceford band from 1939 to 1942. He also played lead trumpet with Count Basie, Gerald Wilson and Lionel Hampton, among others, and was an original member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band.  His longest engagement was with NBC, where, as a studio trumpet player, he joined The Tonight Show Band in 1967 and stayed with them until 1992.    


Clay Jenkins had the pleasure of performing with Snooky with the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra for 26 years.  “Snooky changed the way we all play.  He had a timeless tone that….”


Clay joined the Eastman faculty in 2000 as professor of jazz studies.  His career as a jazz artist has covered a wide range of musical experiences and responsibilities, and he maintains a busy performing, recording, and teaching schedule. He has performed and recorded with artists including Milt Jackson, the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Stan Kenton ORchestra, Diana Krall, Billy Harper, Lyle Mays, and Peter Erskine.


“I feel privileged to work with the next generation of jazz artists at Eastman.  Each day I am inspired by the creativity of these students and their passion for stretching the paradigm in new directions.  My wife and I wanted to honor Snooky in a way that would foster more artists like him.”