John Langdon

John Langdon, COP '14, will spend nine months abroad on a Fulbright research grant. The history major and gender studies minor will focus on the growth of jazz music in early nineteenth century India.

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Academics

Pacific student headed to India as Fulbright scholar

John Langdon, COP '14, will spend nine months studying the history of Jazz in early twentieth-century India on a Fulbright research grant.
Ann MazzaferroMay 12, 2014

John Langdon brought an eclectic background with him when he came to University of the Pacific: stints as a professional musician and film scorer, travels through Europe and India, a stretch of work on a progressive AM radio station. And it quickly emerged that these wide-ranging adventures prepared him perfectly for the personal and academic journey awaiting him in Stockton.

"Coming to Pacific was one of the best decisions I've ever made," says Langdon, who will graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in history and minor in gender studies. "Pacific has been a perfect match, and the faculty and staff here have been so supportive."

With graduation at hand, Langdon is preparing for the next adventure on his horizon: returning to India as a Fulbright Research Scholar. A program of the United States Department of State, the Fulbright Research Scholar award is a highly competitive honor that will allow Langdon to pursue his studies of jazz in 20th century India for nine months. For Langdon, who first spent time with in India in 2006 with friends, the return is a welcome one.

"Being there really exposed me to the raw power of education, and what it can do to change people's lives," Langdon says.

While Langdon has always had an abiding interest in music - he plays the guitar, piano and mandolin, among other instruments - it was at Pacific, which shares a deep connection to jazz legend and alumnus Dave Brubeck, where Langdon's scholarship in music took off. Langdon spent hours with the Brubeck Collection, one of the world's largest and most comprehensive collections from a contemporary musician. The collection contains materials that cover the depth and breadth of Brubeck's work as a musician, as well as his lifelong pursuit of social justice.

"Undergraduate research helps to make history more palpable and alive for a student," says Keith Hatschek, professor of music management, for whom Langdon worked for two years as research assistant in support of Dr. Hatschek's research regarding Dave Brubeck. "Once students see these letters and documents, and start reading about these struggles and successes, it becomes real to them, and it makes them stop and consider the world they are living in and the issues they are facing in a new way."

Langdon's work will focus primarily on the development of jazz in India in the first half of the 20th century. Many African-American musicians, who were not allowed to play in segregated night clubs, fled the U.S. for India, where they were able to achieve great success and play at some of the finest venues the country could offer.  John worked closely with Dr. Susan Weiner, Pacific's Fellowship Advisor, throughout the process of conceptualizing and writing his research proposal and personal statement.

"Susan Weiner was instrumental in the process and the success of the Fulbright," says Langdon.

Langdon will also be examining the jazz diplomacy tours sponsored by the State Department in the 1950s and 1960s, and he hopes to speak with musicians who may have played informally with Dave Brubeck during his jazz diplomacy tours of the subcontinent.

"Dave is held in high regard in India," says Langdon, who will be based at the Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology at the American Institute for Indian Studies in Guragon. "An Indian music critic that witnessed Dave's jam sessions with Indian musicians compared Dave's compositions as the closest in form and style to that of classical Indian music. "

Langdon hopes to write a book during his Fulbright. Greg Rohlf, for one, is eager to read it. "John is intellectually curious, a musician, a composer - the breadth of knowledge that he brings to historical inquiry is just fantastic," says Rohlf, chair of the Department of History and Langdon's professor and academic advisor. "It's been a pleasure to work with him, and I am excited to see what the future holds for him."

It's a future that Langdon is looking forward to as well.

"I always set really high goals for myself, and I never stop working to achieve them," Langdon says.

Students who are interested in the Fulbright program and other similar programs should contact Dr. Susan Weiner, Pacific Fellowship Advisor.