Last fall, when internationally-renowned saxophonist Gary Thomas “resigned” as the head of Jazz Studies at the Peabody Conservatory, as The Brew reported, his departure shined a light on the jazz program’s dearth of black faculty, declining enrollment and other signs of trouble.
This coming fall, three new faculty members – all with local Baltimore roots – will begin teaching at the school: bassist Kristopher Funn, saxophonist Tim Green, and vibraphone specialist Warren Wolf.
Together with the new Jazz Studies chairman – acclaimed trumpeter Sean Jones, whose appointment was announced in January – the line-up represents a reboot for this part of the Peabody Institute, since 1977 an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University.
“The Peabody Conservatory continues to reinvigorate its Jazz program, inspired by the great tradition of jazz in Baltimore and consistent with the Conservatory’s innovative approach to 21st-century training in the arts,” the school announced in a release.
The area jazz community, meanwhile, had nothing but praise and congratulations for the incoming profs:
The new faculty members will teach private lessons, coach ensembles, and teach jazz department courses at Peabody beginning in the Fall 2018 semester.
By bringing in Jones, who is black, Peabody appeared to be trying to move past the controversy that stemmed from Thomas’ departure.
Thomas was not willing to be quoted last fall, but a letter outlining his grievances that his attorney submitted to Peabody administration was circulated by his supporters.
It described instances of insensitive, racist behavior by fellow faculty and charged that he and his department were disrespected at the classically-oriented institution.
The former chair of the brass department at Berklee College of Music, Jones has been upbeat about his mission to turn things around in Baltimore.
“Peabody is at a crucial point in its history as a beacon of music education and curator of American Music,” Jones said in a statement he released last month. “It has the unique opportunity to support the codification and curation of America’s indigenous art form not just in word, but in deed!”
Crowing last week about adding Funn, Green and Wolf to his team, Jones kept it simple.
“We’re on our way!” he tweeted.
Here are the bio’s the school released, as part of its announcement:
Baltimore native and jazz bassist Kristopher Funn won the “unsung hero” award at the Fish Middleton jazz competition at the East Coast Jazz festival in the first year he was learning to play the bass. Since then, he has traveled to every major jazz festival in the world, touching six continents and performing with artists including Kenny Garrett, Christian Scott, Nicholas Payton, Benny Golson, Bruce Williams, Warren Wolf, Sean Jones, Pharoah Sanders, Jeff Lorber, Kamasi Washington, and Joey Alexander. He has appeared on several recordings including the Christian Scott albums Yesterday You Said Tomorrow and Stretch Music. An honors graduate of Howard University where he performed with the Howard University Jazz Ensemble, Funn recently released his debut album, Cornerstore, and continues to perform professionally in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. metropolitan area when not touring internationally.
Internationally acclaimed saxophonist, educator, composer, and arranger Tim Green, a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts, received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music and his master’s degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern California’s Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. During his time at USC he came up under the guiding lights of legends like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Terence Blanchard. His diverse performance career includes playing with some of the most recognized names in jazz, gospel, R&B, hip-hop, and pop music, including Christian McBride, Eric Reed, Mulgrew Miller, Jon Faddis, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Queen Latifah, Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, and Yolanda Adams. He has played in venues including Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Disney Hall, the White House, and the Village Vanguard. Green has worked as a faculty member, guest artist-in-residence, and clinician at programs including Morgan State University, Temple University, the Baltimore School for the Arts, Seiko Jazz Camp, Brevard Jazz Camp, UNC Asheville, Jazz Reach, the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and the Stanford Jazz Workshop.
An alumnus of the Peabody Preparatory and the Baltimore School for the Arts, Warren Wolf has since a very young age been a multi-instrumentalist, playing the vibraphone/marimba, drumset/percussion, and the piano/keyboards, among other instruments. As a student at the Berklee College of Music, he studied with Caribbean Jazz Project vibist Dave Samuels and began to experiment with musical styles outside of jazz and classical, such as hip-hop, R&B, drum-n-bass, funk, rock, gospel, world music, and Latin. He has played and recorded with some of the world’s best musicians, including Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Christian McBride & Inside Straight, Nicholas Payton, David Sanborn, Aaron Diehl, Tia Fuller, and many others. He is a member of the all-star SFJazz Collective, leader of the group Warren Wolf & WOLFPACK, and has recorded seven records as a leader. Currently an adjunct professor at Temple University and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Wolf has also taught at Berklee and is the former chair of jazz studies at the Baltimore School for the Arts.