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Jazz Studies Reborn at Rutgers University

From the earliest days of his youth, Wayne Winborne has been a “jazz head.”

Back when he used to visit his school library as a seventh-grader in his native Portsmouth, Va., for example, Winborne would bypass the books and head straight for albums.

“I would check out jazz,” Winborne recalled of taking home records of artists that ranged from Duke Ellington to Grover Washington Jr. and studying their music “note for note.”

Wayne WinborneWayne Winborne

“I’ve been a jazz head for a long time,” Winborne said.

Winborne’s lifelong love of jazz recently landed him a position as executive director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University — Newark.

In that capacity, Winborne—who heads the Winborne Group, a national consulting company that specializes in diversity and multicultural marketing, among other things—will draw upon his extensive experience in higher education and corporate America to take the Institute of Jazz Studies to the next level.

Rutgers Chancellor Nancy Cantor said Winborne’s appointment will help the institute—a world-renowned archive for jazz scholars—“play on a much bigger stage while connecting new audiences to jazz.”

“We will polish the IJS as a crown jewel of jazz and of Newark to realize the institute’s and our collective potential,” Cantor said.

Wimborne, a one-time alto sax player during his undergraduate years at Stanford University, said he plans to make IJS more visible through partnerships and performances. A series of concerts and a jazz film festival are among the things he has in mind.

“This is going to be new territory,” Winborne said. “It’s not something we’ve been particularly known for.”

Winborne must also ensure the institute stays true to its archival mission. Along those lines, he hopes to make optimal use of technology via oral and video history in order to preserve some of the institute’s aging materials.

Winborne brings a wealth of experience in higher education to the position.

For instance, Winborne has held the position of senior research coordinator at the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College and adjunct lecturer in psychology and research methods at New York University and the City University of New York’s Baruch and Medgar Evers Colleges.

He has also authored a number of publications related to diversity and management in corporate, nonprofit and philanthropic settings.

Winborne said he has a few ideas in mind for jazz courses at Rutgers if he is ever tapped to teach.

Some of those ideas revolve around ways make connections between jazz and contemporary music and society.

“There are a number of things that would feel natural in terms of my interest,” Winborne said. “I would absolutely look at developing a course around jazz and race, jazz as a sort of a community-based phenomenon, an experience of a people and a time.

“I would definitely be interested in looking at jazz and hip hop,” said Winborne, speaking of the many connections between the two forms of music.

Winborne is well connected in the music world. For instance, he counts among his friends Bill Stephney, onetime producer of the legendary rap group Public Enemy.

“Bill said to me a lot of the young brothers and sisters they want to be into jazz,” Winborne recounted of a conversation he once had with Stephney. “For them jazz is cool. Jazz has a sophistication. It has a politics behind it. A sociology.”

For now, Winborne’s focus will be on the institute, which holds jazz relics that range from old sheet music and aging recordings to a saxophone that once belonged to Lester Young.

“I’m a kid in a candy store,” Winborne said of how he feels when he interacts with various holdings of the Institute of Jazz Studies.

“There’s all these recordings of stuff that I hadn’t seen and then the books, too,” Winborne said. “To actually hold Lester Young’s saxophone and Ben Carter’s saxophone, that’s going to be like a kid fifty years from now, for whatever reason, like your kids got into (rapper) Mos Def, and they find that big red microphone that he used. This is the connection.”

Jamaal Abdul-Alim can be reached at [email protected]. Or follow him on Twitter @dcwriter360.

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