8 Notable Jazz Musicians that Attended HBCUs

by Faith Dawson

April is Jazz Appreciation Month! HBCUs played a special role in the history of jazz and paved the way for higher education institutions to offer jazz education. Today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up recognizes 8 influential jazz musicians that attended HBCUs at some point in their careers.

1) Jimmy Lunceford—Fisk University


Jimmy Lunceford received a BA from Fisk University. He is best known for having showy live performances with his orchestra. Their colorful shows made them a major attraction during the Swing era of Jazz.

2) Paul Bascomb—Alabama State University

paul bascomb

Paul Bascomb was a founding member of the Bama State Collegians, a student jazz orchestra made up of students at Alabama State University. In 1979, he was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

3) Jimmy Blanton—Tennessee State University


Jimmy Blanton briefly attended Tennessee State University performing with the Tennessee State Collegians for one year before moving to St. Louis. Shortly after, Duke Ellington heard him play and added him to his band. He helped spur Ellington’s band into a major creative phase and changed the way the double bass was used in jazz.

4) Frank Foster—Wilberforce University


Frank Foster attended Wilberforce University. His skills as an arranger helped shape the Count Basie Orchestra in the 1950s and ‘60s. “Shiny Stockings” is one of his most popular arrangements.

5) Benny Golson—Howard University


Benny Golson was born in Philadelphia, PA. He graduated from Howard University and later joined Bull Moose Jackson’s band. He took a 12 year break from jazz to focus on studio and orchestral work. During this time he composed music for popular TV shows like “M*A*S*H.”

6) Alvin Batiste—Southern University


Alvin Batiste was a jazz clarinetist. He was a musical education graduate of Southern University in 1955. While he wasn’t a household name, he earned the respect of jazz musicians worldwide and later taught at his alma mater, Southern University..

7) Cannonball Adderley—Florida A&M University


Cannonball Adderley played the alto saxophone during the hard bop era, which took place in the 1950s and ’60s. After high school, he attended Florida A&M University where he studied reed and brass instruments.

8) Clifford Brown—Delaware State University


Clifford Brown was a jazz trumpeter. His career was shortlived due to a fatal car accident when he was just 25 years old. He was born in Wilmington, Delaware and briefly attended Delaware State University. Brown’s widow went on to establish the Clifford Brown Jazz Foundation, an organization dedicated to Brown’s legacy and inspiring a love for jazz among youth.

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