Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra

On September 15 at 8 p.m., the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will perform a convocation in Phelps Stokes Auditorium.  The seven-piece ensemble, led by the renowned artistic and musical director Dr. David N. Baker, will feature an eclectic medley of historic jazz pieces during their program “Making the History of Jazz Come Alive.” This Stephenson Memorial Concert is free and open to the public. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO) was created in 1990 through Congressional funding to explore, present, promote and perpetuate the historical legacy of jazz as an American art form.  It is the goal of the SJMO to enrich the public’s understanding of the character and importance of this unique American treasure by presenting significant jazz masterworks in engaging musical performances, and stimulating educational activities that are based on scholarship and research.

The Smithsonian Institution has a long record of leadership in preserving and promoting the historical legacy of jazz, presenting diverse jazz programs, and jazz education.  The SJMO curates exhibitions and traveling exhibitions; offers research fellowships; produces recordings and videos; publishes books and jazz music editions such as the recently launched “Jazz: the Smithsonian Anthology;” offers lectures and seminars for adults; and develops educational offerings for students.  Much of this work in jazz takes place at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Concerts feature transcribed classics, new arrangements, and commissioned works that illuminate the contributions of composers and creators from small ensembles to jazz masters.  Past concerts have included the music of Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Strayhorn, Benny Carter and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

In 2002, the orchestra was presented with the Washington, D.C., Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in an Artistic Discipline. The award is the most prestigious honor in the arts conferred by the District of Columbia on individual artists, organizations, and patrons of the arts.  The SJMO will be celebrating the its 20th Anniversary this year.

The Stephenson Memorial Concert Fund was established in 1987 by Louis B. and Edna M. Stephenson in memory of their children Nancy Anne Stephenson and John B. Stephenson–Berea College’s president from 1984 to 1994. Nancy Anne was a pianist who unfortunately passed away at a young age. The performances have been chosen in accordance with her taste in music and portray diverse musical instruments stemming from a number of multi-cultural influences.

For more information about this event please contact Randall Roberts at 859-985-3359 or via email at

Other upcoming Berea College events include:

  • Sept. 22 Convocation: Dr. Marcus J. Borg – “Telling the Story of Jesus Today”
  • Sept. 29 Convocation: Andrea Smith – “Indigenous Women and Social Justice”
  • Oct. 6 Convocation: Founders’ Day – “To Serve with Love: Life Lessons on Servant Leadership”

See the full convocation schedule at

Categories: News, Programs and Initiatives
Tags: Convocation, music, Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, Stephenson Memorial Concert

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 41 states and 76 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.