Grad Student Presents Research at Conference

Austin Di Pietro headship
Austin Di Pietro

Austin Di Pietro, a graduate student in the Department of Music pursuing the Master of Music degree with a concentration in Jazz Performance, delivered a presentation at the "Graduate Students in Music" at the City University of New York in April 2019, in New York, NY. Di Pietro's talk, titled "The Blue Bird Inn: An Incubator for Creative Innovation in 1950s Detroit," draws on ethnographic and historical research he conducted in MUH 5300 (Music Research) during the Fall 2018 semester. In fact, this is the second year in a row that a student research project from that course has resulted in a peer-reviewed conference presentation.

"The Blue Bird Inn was one of the most historically significant jazz clubs in Detroit, Michigan in the 1940s and 1950s," Di Pietro explains, "a gathering place for a modernist circle of jazz musicians, artists, and other intellectuals at a transitional time for jazz music. This study finds that the contributions of modernist Detroit jazz musicians to the hard bop style in the 1950s were facilitated by the artistic and intellectual community centralized [there]." The significance of this research is clear: "Much of the previous work on this subject has concentrated on individual musicians and their contributions. However, by looking at the music through a sociological lens and highlighting the communal aspect of modern jazz styles, we discover that the jazz club – and thus, the audience– has played a much more important role in the development of modern jazz than previously considered."

Dr. Joshua S. Duchan, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Music, describes Di Pietro's work as "absolutely groundbreaking and thorough." He adds: "There really isn't a lot of scholarship on jazz in Detroit – it's a field that's just beginning to emerge – and Austin's take on the subject not only contributes to that body of literature in a convincing and productive way, but it does so by considering the social and cultural space of this historic venue alongside the music and musicians."