Brubeck Collection, University of the Pacific Library and the Brubeck Institute

Trumpeter Louis Armstrong called the jazz musical, The Real Ambassadors, his "jazz opera." The play was co-written by pianist-composer Dave Brubeck '42 and his lyricist wife Iola Brubeck '45 and performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1962.

  • Print
Pacific News

Student historians, University archivists document memories of groundbreaking Monterey Jazz Festival event

Brubecks and Armstrong played in ‘62, but it wasn’t recorded; Pacific sleuths try to fix that
by Christopher HerediaSep 21, 2012

Before U2 rocker Bono, and his global humanitarian work, there was Dave and Iola Brubeck and Louis Armstrong.

Fifty years ago this weekend, jazz pianist composer Dave Brubeck, his lyricist wife Iola and the great "Satchmo" - jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong - performed a jazz musical at Monterey Jazz Festival about breaking down racial barriers. It fit hand-in-glove with the Brubecks' as well as Armstrong's mission to transcend jazz performance and use their celebrity to help advance global humanitarian and diplomatic causes.

To say it was groundbreaking would be a disservice. The play, "The Real Ambassadors," co-written by the Brubecks, pointed out the absurdity of segregation and made the case that artists such as Armstrong, an African American living in a still segregated United States, as well as music artists in general are the best and "real" ambassadors to demonstrate the nation's ideals.

"The Real Ambassadors signify the efforts of jazz musicians to speak up about civil rights and social justice issues in a way that would be palatable to the general public," said Keith Hatschek, professor of music management, who has spearheaded the effort to recreate that night through sound, recording and re-performance. "The only one who believed in it back in 1962 was the founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Jimmy Lyons. He got all the musicians together, booked them for the festival. He said, 'We need you to play an extra hour Sunday night, it will be special' and it was."

If you think about current-day musicians, actors, athletes and authors such as Madonna, Brad Pitt, Magic Johnson and others promoting understanding of American culture abroad, bridging divides between governments and providing needed resources to address social, health and economic ills abroad, history has proven the Real Ambassadors correct.

Holt-Atherton archivists and history majors do detective work and present full exhibit at Festival

This weekend, a group of University of the Pacific history students will descend on the Monterey Jazz Festival, digital audio recorders in hand, in an effort to capture the recollections of people who were in the audience that night in September 1962. Their works will be added to an ever deepening understanding of that seminal performance since no recording was made of it at its only performance.

The staff of the University's Holt-Atherton Special Collections will present a complete exhibit on The Real Ambassadors covering the social justice, musical and international diplomacy aspects. The exhibit also has audio and video highlights including a full re-creation of that 1962 performance with Iola Brubeck's narration along with Pacific Conservatory students who contributed missing parts of the recording. This facsimile performance, approved by the Brubecks, is the closest that jazz fans will get to hearing what it sounded like that night 50 years ago.

There will be a conversation on Saturday at the Jazz Festival with Brubeck and Armstrong scholars as well as Yolande Bavan, one of the performers from the 1962 presentation of "The Real Ambassadors."

Brubeck and his wife Iola are alumni of University of the Pacific and we are proud to have the largest collection of the magnificent musicians' correspondence, legal and business documents, musical recordings, music manuscripts, photographs, printed programs, memorabilia, and other important archival material.

This is a story that transcends the region. Representatives of University of the Pacific's Brubeck Institute, the Conservatory of Music, University archivists as well as the student historians will be available for media interviews. This is the 55th year of the Monterey Jazz Festival.

If you are unable to attend the Festival and have a Real Ambassador's story, please contact Keith Hatschek, professor of music management, or 209.946.2443.

Pacific at Monterey Jazz Festival on the Web:

The Three Elements:

Exhibit: The exhibit is being curated by Michael Wurtz (Archivist for the Holt-Atherton Special Collections) and Keith Hatschek (Chair of the Music Management Department in the Conservatory) with assistance from staff here at the library. The Brubeck Collection is housed in the Holt-Atherton Special Collections at the University of the Pacific Library. We have digitized much of the material from the Collection for our website (

Panel Discussion: Yolande Bavan (who is a stage and film actress and performed with the Brubecks on stage in 1962 for The Real Ambassadors); Ricky Riccardi (a Louis Armstrong historian from the Louis Armstrong House); Bill Minor (Monterey Jazz Festival Historian), and Keith Hatschek, professor of music management (also a scholar of the Brubecks and The Real Ambassadors).

Oral History: Keith Hatschek is working with Pacific History Professor Jennifer Helgren to have senior history students (Ignacio Sanchez-Alonso and John Langdon) conduct interviews.