Dave Brubeck enrolled at what’s now the University of the Pacific in 1938 with plans to study veterinary medicine. He eventually switched his major to music, and he tore through his classes until he had to enroll in keyboard instruction his senior year. At that point, Brubeck had to admit to his professor that he couldn’t read a single note of music, even though he played jazz as well as anyone.
Brubeck’s professor and the university dean informed him that they couldn’t let a student graduate with a music degree if he couldn’t read music. Brubeck shrugged off their worries by saying he didn’t care about reading music; he just wanted to play jazz. Brubeck’s other teachers protested that he was a very gifted musician even if he couldn’t read music, so the dean cut a deal with the jazz man: Brubeck could graduate, but only if he promised never to teach music and embarrass the school by revealing his shortcoming. Brubeck later laughingly told the website, JazzWax, “I kept that promise ever since, even when I was starving.”
For full details on our upcoming Dave Brubeck concert series, see our concerts page.