The gift to the University of California, Berkeley, of the bulk of famous jazz pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines’ estate will provide exceptionally gifted low-income students with free musical instruction and the campus’s music library with his collection of papers, compositions and memorabilia.
Hines’ musical archive will become the cornerstone at the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library of a new Archive of African American Music, which would be unique on the West Coast.
Hines played to sold-out audiences in the United States and around the world for most of the 20th century, defining jazz until his death in 1983. For the last three decades of his life, he lived in Oakland during a time of renewed appreciation for his contributions to jazz.
Hines, who first came to UC Berkeley as a Regents’ Lecturer in music in 1979, had a special interest in furthering music education, particularly that of African American students, and stipulated that a portion of his estate be dedicated to such purposes.
Listen to the music
Earl Hines’ recordings, stretching from 1923 through the ’70s, are available as online streams from three services provided by the UC Berkeley Music Library. (Campus or VPN connection required)
The Earl “Fatha” Hines Young Musicians Development Fund will benefit students in the campus’s Young Musicians Program, which provides year-round, individualized instruction to musically gifted low-income students in grades four to 12 at no cost to their families. The program was founded in 1968 by Professor Emeritus of Music Michael Senturia with 20 students and three volunteer teachers, and has since grown into one of the leading music education programs in the nation with up to 90 students and 50 teachers.
The program has spawned such luminaries as saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Benny Green, and drummer Will Kennedy. Its students currently are enrolled in 26 universities and conservatories across the country.
In addition to supporting the education of young pianists in the classical and jazz traditions, the monetary gift — in excess of $257,900 — will also allow the program to fund guest artists who spend several weeks teaching and mentoring students at UC Berkeley during the summer. Up until now, guest artists were often asked to donate part of their time, due to lack of funds.
“Oftentimes, kids have dreams with no means to realize them, but this program is designed to encourage them to touch their dreams and make them real,” said Daisy Newman, executive director of the Young Musicians Program.
The gift validates the success of the program as a model for reaching out to children from low-income backgrounds and giving them tools to succeed in their education and pursuit of music, said distinguished composer and Professor Emeritus of Music Olly W. Wilson, who as co-administrator of the Hines estate was principally responsible for securing the gift.
The Earl “Fatha” Hines Collection – the other component of the overall gift – helps document the rise of Hines as one of jazz’s early masters, and his continuing importance in jazz history in the 1940s as the leader of the first modern jazz big band, which included Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn and Billy Eckstein.
“These materials not only document the career of a jazz pioneer, but they also illuminate decades of musical life in the Bay Area,” said John Shepard, head librarian at the music library.
A major strength of the Hines collection is the group of “charts” – the instrumentalists’ performance parts – used by Hines’ big band and smaller ensemble, said Shepard. Among the charts are numerous arrangements by luminaries such as Tadd Dameron and Budd Johnson, as well as memorabilia, correspondence, biographical materials and some interesting regalia, such as Hines’ stage costumes and collection of fancy cufflinks.
“This is an unusual kind of gift from an artist to a university,” added Wilson, who said the only other comparable collections are at the Library of Congress, the Yale University Library, the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago and the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University.
The Hines’ collection “helps to support research in the field of African American music, defined broadly as the wide range of extraordinary music genres that developed in African American culture,” Wilson added.
It is a fitting association for the legacy of Hines, who is considered to be, along with Jelly Roll Morton, the major innovator in the development of jazz piano. Hines developed a style of playing florid linear melodic passages that had an inner musical logic in the right hand, while maintaining a steady rhythmic left hand, all performed with the characteristic jazz triplet subdivision of the pulse.
Because Hines frequently played these lines in octaves so they could be better heard, they reminded people of the lines horn soloists played, and so this style was referred to as “trumpet piano style.” Hines also developed a technique of playing fiendishly difficult lines with rhythmic vitality, unexpected interjected dissonances, and interior countermelodies in the middle range of the piano.
One of the highlights of Hines’ life was being presented in 1969 with a magnificent unique Steinway grand piano by San Francisco Chronicle Managing Editor Scott Newhall at a gala event in Hines’ honor.
The inscription on that grand piano reads, in part: “This piano is the only one of its kind in the world and expresses the great genius of a man who has never played a melancholy note in his lifetime on a planet that has often succumbed to despair.”