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Death of Bob Brookmeyer

NEA Jazz Master active until last few weeks of his life

NEC Mourns the Death of Jazz Great and Former Faculty Bob Brookmeyer ’08 hon. D.M.A.

Named NEA Jazz Master in 2006

Founded and Directed NEC’s Jazz Composer’s Workshop Orchestra

New England Conservatory is mourning the death of composer-bandleader-trombonist-educator Bob Brookmeyer, a much loved faculty member who taught at the school from 1997—2007.  One of the giants of jazz, who was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2006, Brookmeyer would have turned 82 next week.  He had been hospitalized, but his death came unexpectedly, according to family friends. Indeed, his most recent album, Standards, the last of a discography of over 30 recordings, was only released a few weeks ago. Brookmeyer had also just been nominated for a Grammy in the Best Instrumental Arrangement category for Nasty Dance.  This track came from the album Forever Lasting—Live in Tokyo by The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

While at NEC, Brookmeyer founded and directed the Jazz Composer’s Workshop Orchestra, an ongoing ensemble devoted to rehearsing and performing works by NEC Jazz Composition students. Now led by Frank Carlberg, the orchestra gives young composers the opportunity to learn how to rehearse and conduct a band, as well as to have their works heard. Brookmeyer’s mentoring left a lifelong impression on his students and helped to shape such influential young musicians as Ayn Inserto, Darcy James Argue and Nicholas Urie.  In 2008, Brookmeyer was awarded an honorary doctorate from NEC in recognition of his distinguished musical career and his invaluable contributions to NEC. During NEC's Jazz40 celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the Jazz Studies Department, Brookmeyer performed with students and friends in NEC's Jordan Hall as pictured in the accompanying images.

“Bob had a huge impact on an entire generation of NEC students," said Ken Schaphorst, Chair of Jazz Studies. “He was one of the greatest player/composers in the history of jazz. He improvised with the same seemingly effortless grace and logic that characterized his writing. His voice was unmistakable. And he will be sorely missed.” "Bob was a beautiful person, a great teacher and an even greater musician and composer," said Michael Gandolfi, Chair of NEC's Composition Department. "His boundary-crossing music spoke to our time in general and to NEC's vision in particular."

Brookmeyer's career in jazz began when he arrived in New York in 1952 and played with Claude Thornhill, Woody Herman, Teddy Charles, and Charles Mingus. In 1953 he joined Stan Getz, followed by a long stay with Gerry Mulligan, and then by the Jimmy Giuffre Three and his own quintet with Clark Terry. He played and composed for the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra beginning with its founding in 1965, and after ten years in California returned as musical director for Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra.

Beginning in 1981 he was very active as composer, conductor, teacher, and performer in Europe, working in both classical and jazz idioms. His work as a composer was recognized with a succession of NEA jazz composition grants. In 1994 he was appointed musical director of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Big Band, a worldwide jazz-based ensemble dedicated to new music. This ensemble became the New Art Orchestra, which recorded an award-winning CD and, after completing a second one, began concert touring in 2001. He was commissioned by The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic to write a piece for an EMI CD, featuring the German trumpet player, Till Broenner.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

For further information, check the NEC Website

Click here to read stories and remembrances of Brookmeyer by former students and colleagues.

See obituaries from The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Jazz Times, and Jazz Police


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory in Boston, MA offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, contemporary improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Programs and Partnerships Program, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music, jazz, and contemporary improvisation.

NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, century-old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz, contemporary improvisation, and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre or Paramount Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115