Campus: CSU Long Beach -- January 23, 2002

Music Professor at California State University, Long Beach Receives Louis Armstrong Award from International Association of Jazz Education

Richard Birkemeier, a professor of music at Cal State Long Beach, has been presented the Louis Armstrong Fellowship Award from the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE).

Birkemeier is the director of the California Institute for the Preservation of Jazz at CSULB, and the award came in recognition for the Compton After-School Jazz Program, part of the Institute's "Jazz for Today: Jazz for Tomorrow" outreach program.

As the institute director and in consultation with Compton Unified School District administrators, Birkemeier established the after-school beginning instrumental music program for students at Roosevelt Middle School. Taught by Birkemeier, the program meets twice weekly as students learn to play instruments in the jazz idiom rather than the traditional concert band format. The after-school jazz program represents the first step to returning music to Compton middle schools after it was removed from the curriculum because of budget cuts.

"I was totally surprised (by the award) because our program has been in existence for less than a year." Said Birkemeier, a resident of Norwalk who joined the university in 1985. "I was, however, very pleased because the students need the music so desperately and the award will help us obtain badly needed instruments. These young people absolutely love doing this."

The award will fund the purchase of six saxophones, a drum set and a bass guitar.

Last fall, the institute was asked to expand its program to Compton's Enterprise and Willowbrook middle schools. To that end, CSULB's Music Department and Birkemeier are
implementing a "service learning" class this spring that provides five jazz studies majors with the pedagogical training and skills to participate in the program and earn units toward their graduation.

The Louis Armstrong Fellowship is made possible by funding from the Herb Alpert Jazz Endowment and collaborations with various IAJE industry partners and is offered in memory of the legendary jazz pioneer who rose above an environment of poverty and discrimination to offer hope to students with limited opportunities and resources in inner-city settings.

The California Institute for the Preservation of Jazz was founded by retired Assemblyman Willard Murray and established by state law in 1994. Housed on the campus of CSULB, it maintains programs in jazz education, outreach, performance and preservation.

The Institute has produced two critically acclaimed jazz festivals, received major operating grants from the state, the California Arts Council and the National Education Association, created a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution's Jazz Oral History program, used a CSU Academic Opportunity Grant to create a new searchable, indexed DVD-based jazz oral history archiving process and created an archive of jazz recordings and memorabilia.

Birkemeier received his bachelor's in music education from the University of Wisconsin, his master's from the University of Memphis and his doctorate from Northwestern University in 1984.

"I hope this award helps shed new light on the status of music education in Compton middle schools," Birkemeier said. "The need for new music teachers is strong. Hopefully, this award will help spur district administrators to hire new teachers."

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