Playback: Harvard Jazz Bands honor Tom Everett

by Patrick Lauppe

Early this year, Tom Everett, originator and longtime director of the Harvard Bands, retired. His retirement was especially significant for the jazz community at Harvard; Everett inaugurated the Harvard Jazz Bands and taught the first course on jazz for Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Tom Everett literally was jazz at Harvard when I was there," says Aaron Goldberg ’96, a professional jazz pianist who played in the bands as an undergraduate. The visibility of jazz at Harvard today—with multiple jazz-related class offerings, renowned jazz specialists on the faculty such as Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music Ingrid Monson, and high-profile jazz events such as Wynton Marsalis’s periodic Sanders-filling lectures—is part of Everett’s legacy.

On April 13, Everett gets to watch as the band he cultivated honors him as he has honored countless jazz musicians and educators throughout the years: through a concert extravaganza. The Play It Forward: Celebrating Tom Everett concert will bring to stage some of Harvard Jazz Bands’ greatest success stories—Joshua Redman ’91 and Don Braden ’84. Braden, guest conductor of Harvard’s Monday Jazz Band, has these hopes for the concert: "We can’t begin to cover the depth of [Everett’s] legacy, but at least we can give a little hint of what he’s done for us."

A similar humility characterizes Everett’s attitude toward the tremendous jazz musicians that have passed under his wing: "[Joshua Redman] could have been in a phone booth for four years, and he would have developed," Everett says. "He worked very hard. But I like to think that the exposure to a wider field of materials and intellectual challenges made him the person that he is." Indeed, exposure is key to Everett’s teaching method; he regularly brought in some of the greatest names in jazz history to lecture and sit in with his bands. Goldberg, who will also be performing in Saturday’s concert, described Everett as a "facilitator and an enthusiast," an excited educator who was never afraid to step back and let the music teach itself.

When asked how these descriptions fit with his own understanding of his role as a teacher, Everett pauses thoughtfully. "I see myself as a facilitator. And a catalyst. You put that student there, this music here," he sits back and crosses his arms, "and watch it happen." At Saturday’s concert, Everett and the Harvard community will have a chance to do just that: sit back and watch it happen. A testament to the strength of his legacy and the power of this music is the fact that it can now happen without him.

[Caption: Tom Everett]