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NEC Jazz50

Double bill featuring:
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society 
NEC Alumni Big Band

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of NEC’s groundbreaking jazz studies program

Presented by The Sheen Center and New England Conservatory

Saturday, March 21, 2020 @ 8:00PM

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“For a wholly original take on big band’s past, present and future, look to Darcy James Argue” — so says Newsweek’s Seth Colter Walls. Argue is one of many prominent jazz composers to have studied at NEC, working with the legendary Bob Brookmeyer.  The Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based composer and bandleader has toured nationally and internationally with his 18-piece ensemble, Secret Society, garnering countless awards and nominations and reimagining what a 21st-century big band can sound like. “It’s maximalist music of impressive complexity and immense entertainment value, in your face and then in your head” writes Richard Gehr in the Village Voice. Argue has released three critically acclaimed albums as a leader: Infernal Machines (2009), Brooklyn Babylon (2013) and Real Enemies (2016), praised as “a work of furious ambition… deeply in tune with our present moment” by Nate Chinen in The New York Times. He has earned three GRAMMY nominations.

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society big band is made up of Dave PietroAlejandro AvilesSam SadigurskyJohn EllisCarl Maraghi (all winds); Seneca BlackJonathan PowellSam HoytRiley MulherkaAdam O’Farrill (trumpets); Mike FahieNick GrinderKalia VandeverJennifer Wharton (trombones); Sebastian Noelle (guitar); Glenn Zaleski (piano); Jorge Roeder (bass); Richie Barshay (drums); and composer-conductor Darcy James Argue.

Also performing is the NEC Alumni Big Band with all-star Jazz50 group of NEC alums and faculty including Marty Ehrlich, Brian Landrus, Tony Kadleck, Michael Thomas, Noah Preminger, Chris Washburne, Curtis Hasselbring, Josh Roseman, Jennifer Wharton, Frank Carlberg, Jerome Harris, Aaron Bahr, Rich Barshay, David Neves, Kai Sandoval, Kevin Sun and Kim Cass. 

NEC’s Jazz Studies Department was the brainchild of Gunther Schuller, who moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum when he became president of the Conservatory in 1967. He soon hired saxophonist Carl Atkins as the first department chair, as well as other greats including NEA Jazz Master George Russell, pianist Jaki Byard and Ran Blake. The foundation of its teaching and success begins with the mentor relationship developed in lessons between students and the prominent faculty artists. In addition to its two jazz orchestras, faculty-coached small ensembles reflect NEC’s inclusive approach to music making, with ensembles focused on free jazz, early jazz, gospel music, Brazilian music, and songwriting, as well as more traditional approaches to jazz performance.

Students are encouraged to find their own musical voices while making connections and collaborating with a vibrant community of creative musicians, and ultimately to transform the world through the power of music. The program has spawned numerous Grammy winning composers and performers and has an alumni list that reads like a who’s who of jazz, while the faculty has included six MacArthur “genius” grant recipients (three currently teaching) and four NEA Jazz Masters.

“This anniversary provides us the opportunity to reflect on half a century of leadership in jazz education at New England Conservatory, and to celebrate the importance of jazz in both the history and future of American music,” says NEC President Andrea Kalyn.

“I’m very grateful for Gunther Schuller’s farsightedness and efforts in establishing the Jazz department in 1969,” says current Jazz Studies Chair Ken Schaphorst. “I’m also grateful to the faculty and students who have established NEC as a leader in the world of jazz education over the past 50 years. It’s been deeply humbling to share the responsibility of shepherding this noble mission for the past 18 years, educating students in the transformational art form of jazz, developing communication between unique individual human voices. I’m excited to have this opportunity with Jazz50 to celebrate the achievements of NEC’s past and present, while looking forward to our future.”


New England Conservatory (NEC) is recognized internationally as a leader among music schools, educating and training musicians of all ages from around the world for over 150 years. With 800 music students representing more than 40 countries in the College, and 2,000 youth and adults who study in the Preparatory and Continuing Education divisions, NEC cultivates a diverse, dynamic community for students, providing them with performance opportunities and high-caliber training with internationally-esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. NEC’s alumni, faculty and students touch nearly every aspect of musical life in the region; NEC is a major engine of the vital activity that makes Boston a musical and cultural capital. With the recent appointment of Andrea Kalyn to serve as NEC’s 17th President, the Conservatory is poised to embark on a new chapter at the forefront of innovation in education and music.



Next Performance Date:
March 21
8:00 PM
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