Conservatory professor emeritus receives prestigious literary award

Keith Hatschek

Keith Hatschek signs copies of his book "The Real Ambassadors" at University of the Pacific in April 2022.

Professor Emeritus Keith Hatschek received a prestigious award for his book about the historic desegregation efforts of University of the Pacific jazz icon Dave Brubeck ’42, his wife Iola ’45 and legendary trumpeter Louis Armstrong.

Hatschek was honored with the ASCAP Foundation’s 2022 Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Outstanding Book Award for his work “The Real Ambassadors: Dave and Iola Brubeck and Louis Armstrong Challenge Segregation.”

The Association of Recorded Sound Collections also presented Hatschek with a Certificate of Merit for Best Historical Research in recorded jazz.

Hatschek’s book tells the little-known story of how the Brubecks and Armstrong brought the on-stage musical “The Real Ambassadors” to life as a powerful message about racial inequities in America.

“The overall response to the book has been positive,” said Hatschek, who retired in 2021 after 20 years as a professor focusing on the music industry. “It does tend to attract people who have an interest in either jazz music or the way civil rights and the arts intersect. Readers are coming to the book with curiosity in those areas.”

Previous award recipients include jazz great Duke Ellington, Henry Louis de La Grange, internationally recognized biographer of Gustav Mahler, and Alex Ross, 2008 music critic for The New Yorker.

“Keith is a steward of Iola and Dave Brubeck’s legacies as truth tellers."

- Dean Peter Witte

Sixty-plus years ago, the Brubecks and Armstrong worked diligently to produce the musical “The Real Ambassadors”—debuting in 1962 at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Black musicians were among those who faced rampant discrimination during the Cold War.

“Their idea was to combine the spirit of jazz with messages that would get people thinking more about social issues in America at a time when African-Americans faced tremendous racism,” said Hatschek, who also received the Order of Pacific, the university’s top honor.

Hatschek spent substantial time with the Brubecks while researching the book.

“Sitting around their kitchen table in Connecticut one day in the summer of 2009, you could see a wistful look in Iola’s eyes. She talked about this venture with the book and how it helped foster their decades-old message,” Hatschek said.

Peter Witte, dean of the conservatory, said the ASCAP Award comes with considerable prestige.

“Keith is a steward of Iola and Dave Brubeck’s legacies as truth tellers. His latest book reminds us that the Brubecks and Louis Armstrong created ‘The Real Ambassadors’ to lay bare the hard truths behind seemingly smooth American veneers,” Witte said. “ASCAP’s national recognition is another affirmation about a colleague so many call a friend. Keith hears jazz as a calling to a better world.”

Praise for Keith Hatschek’s book

Ashley Kahn, music historian: “The story of ‘The Real Ambassadors’ remains one of the most compelling chapters in the annals of music yet has been in danger of fading away. Hatschek’s book pulls it back into the spotlight, righteously explaining its enduring significance."

Nick Phillips, Grammy-recognized jazz record producer: "An inspiring story that places Dave and Iola Brubeck and Louis Armstrong at the center of jazz musicians’ fight in the 1950s and '60s to overturn the impact of Jim Crow. It presents a shining example of the role of the artist citizen that continues to be relevant today."