Our 2014 Brubeck Festival: Coast to Coast celebrated the lives of Dave and Iola Brubeck. We began in Stockton, California, where they first met, and then we moved to New York City, where the Dave Brubeck Quartet first performed in 1952. We were delighted to join Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center to celebrate Dave's life and music.
We dedicated this year's events to the life and memory of Iola Whitlock Brubeck who passed away on March 12, 2014.
Iola was the wife and creative partner of American icon Dave Brubeck during their seventy-year marriage. As manager, producer, lyricist, librettist, writer, educator, mother and wife, Iola created the environment and opportunities around which their life together took root, grew and flourished. While it is easy to look at the accomplishments of a long, successful partnership and career and check the boxes, i.e. world tours, successful recordings, a catalogue of original works, presidential performances, it is more difficult to assess the qualities and traits that drove such an accomplished and prolific team.
Adjectives such as "conviction," "courage," "resourcefulness" and "resilience" only begin to describe the attributes of a young mother who, in an effort to find new playing opportunities for her jazz musician husband, wrote countless letters to student associations at colleges up and down the west coast. The result of her vision was the beginning of a new, young audience for Dave Brubeck and his groups and the creation of best-selling album releases such as "Jazz goes to College", "Jazz at Oberlin" and "Jazz at the College of the Pacific".
And to keep searching for the next challenge, the next hill to climb, seems to have been an ever-present theme in the Brubeck journey. Why write a controversial musical on segregation and cultural exchange when one is enjoying unparalleled global success with the Dave Brubeck Quartet? Yet, in an effort to speak out against the racial injustices of post war, "modern" America, Iola and Dave created their 1962 musical "the Real Ambassadors" starring Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRea.
The Brubeck's continued pursuing universal themes by embracing sacred music and issues of social justice through the creation of cantatas, oratorios and a mass. For these works Iola was librettist and lyricist and always, general counsel. And in between world tours and concert performances with the London Symphony, Iola and Dave were able to step back and consider their impact on society, and in doing so began to contemplate how their art, created together across genres and over decades, might be carried forward to future generations.
Fortunately their values and integrity, artistic and otherwise are in safe keeping through the talents of Dave and Iola's children Darius, Christopher, Daniel, Matthew and Catherine, and their families. But beyond family, Dave and Iola sought to share their life's work with future generations by donating a vast collection of correspondence, tapes, scores, arrangements, photos and memorabilia to the University of the Pacific. This gift inspired the University to established The Brubeck Institute which builds on Dave and Iola's life-long commitment to music, creativity, education and the advancement of important social issues, including civil rights, social justice and the environment.
College tours, a broadway musical and concerts of sacred music comprise just a few of the myriad moments of Dave and Iola's artistic life together. However, It cannot be overlooked that while the creative output of their shared 70-year career is formidable, it was Iola who created the harbor, the safe haven from which all expeditions of artistic discovery were launched.
In my recent work at the Brubeck Institute, I have had the privilege of working closely with Iola and the Brubeck family and from this vantage point, I have glimpsed the inner workings of a true artistic community, moulded by the qualities and values of a creative life, well-lived. This community may well be a microcosm of a utopian society, fostering democracy, respect and kindness, again fashioned by the benevolent matriarch, Iola.
However, I learned over time that whenever a definitive voice was needed during a dialogue or an exchange of e-mails, Iola would always close a discussion by signing off simply as "Mom".
University of the Pacific