Charles McPherson

Honorary Degrees

Charles McPhersonCharles McPherson

Jazz Musician/Innovator/Community Leader

California State University San Marcos

Charles McPherson, a jazz alto saxophonist, has enjoyed the respect and admiration both of his fellow musicians and the general public. An influential figure in modern mainstream jazz for decades, he has provided inspiration to countless musicians of all ages, exemplifying the mission of the California State University to advance and extend knowledge, learning and culture while providing opportunities for individuals to develop intellectually, personally and professionally.

Born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1939, McPherson has taken an eventful journey of musical discovery and sharing that has included formal and informal education with acknowledged masters of jazz such as Barry Harris and Charles Mingus. He has lived and worked in Detroit and New York, and has performed and conducted clinics throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, Africa and South America.

Over the course of his career, McPherson has recorded over 30 albums as a leader, performed concerts and festivals in such venues as the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and worked with Mingus, Harris, Art Farmer, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Wynton Marsalis, amongst others. His music was featured in Clint Eastwood's Bird (1988)—a biopic on the life of Charlie Parker—and he also composed significant works for dance, such as his collaboration with the San Diego Ballet, Sweet Synergy Suite.

McPherson has performed at California State University San Marcos through the Arts & Lectures series and has also given performances and clinics for the university's music classes. In each instance, he demonstrated patience and a great capacity to listen and respond to students' musical inquiries and concerns. In addition to teaching privately, McPherson has fostered numerous mutually beneficial relationships and collaborations with music educators and institutions throughout California and the United States. Through his performances and instruction, he has had a direct or de facto influence upon many of San Diego's musicians and educators. This is truly an extraordinary achievement, given the fact that jazz studies is a relatively fledgling academic discipline.

In recognition of his outstanding professional and creative accomplishments and his influential role in mentoring future generations of musical artists, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University San Marcos are proud to confer upon Charles McPherson the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.