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Clark Atlanta University Recognizes Professor Dr. James H. Patterson During Jazz Appreciation Month

musical notes on piano keys

Patterson recently honored with “Lejend of Jazz Education” Award

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and Clark Atlanta University recognizes Dr. James H. Patterson for his outstanding accomplishments in the Jazz Music industry. Dr. Patterson has made a lasting impact on our world through his work and commitment to keeping jazz music and its rich history alive.  Additionally, Patterson, the music professor and director of the world-renowned Clark Atlanta University Jazz Orchestra, was recently honored with the “Lejend of Jazz Education” Award, presented by the Jazz Education Network (JEN).

The award, which recognizes “educators, artists, and contributors with a long and distinguished service to the jazz education community,” serves as a reminder that Black history continues to be made every day by living legends who are inspiring the next generation of leaders.

A graduate of Clark College — now Clark Atlanta University — Dr. Patterson joined his alma mater as a professor in 1968 and founded The Clark Atlanta Jazz Orchestra. The orchestra was formally added to the curriculum in 1976 to preserve and promote “African diaspora history/culture” — jazz in its purest state. Under Dr. Patterson, the group has performed nationally and internationally with some of the biggest names in jazz — Dizzy Gillespie, Cab Calloway, James Moody, and Mary Lou Williams, to name a few. They’ve performed in international jazz festivals in Switzerland and The Netherlands.

“Prof. Patterson invited some of history’s greatest jazz musicians to teach and inspire us,” said Class of ’91 alumnus Sherman Irby. Irby, who went on to become the lead saxophonist with The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and collaborated with jazz greats Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove, added, “the years I spent at CAU taught me that hard work brings great results. This was the foundation that I needed to prepare me for the world.”

Coming from humble beginnings in Kingston, Ga., Dr. Patterson earned his Bachelor of Arts in Music from Clark College and then enlisted in the U.S. Army. While serving, Patterson directed the Drum and Bugle Corps at Fort Jackson, S.C. and performed with the Seventh Army Band throughout Europe. After completing his service, Patterson earned his Master’s of Music degree from the University of Michigan and completed his postgraduate studies at Clark Atlanta University and The University of Wisconsin. In 2018, Patterson was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Atlanta’s Morris Brown College.

Dr. Patterson’s career as a performer, conductor, educator, and community leader spans decades, and his work has inspired countless students and music lovers from across the world. Some of his career accomplishments and highlights include:

  • Performer with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra and Band of Atlanta.
  • Founder of the Fletcher Henderson/Wayman Carver Jazz Festival at Clark Atlanta University.
  • Guest conductor for the Atlanta University Center-wide Orchestra.
  • Participant in the Congressional Black Caucus as a panelist and moderator, per an invitation by Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
  • Director of the HBCU All-Star Big Band in the University of Notre Dame’s Annual Collegiate Jazz Festival.
  • Board member and 2020 Chairman of the Scholarship Committee of the Tuskegee Airmen Scholarship Fund chapter in Atlanta.
  • Founder and C.E.O of the James Hardy Patterson Foundation, Inc.
  • Lifetime voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammy Awards).

Patterson’s story is part of the living Black American tapestry that continues to be woven. During Jazz Appreciation Month, CAU will also honor other Clark Atlanta University Alumni, faculty, staff, and students who have made outstanding contributions to jazz music in a social media campaign. To check out the Jazz Appreciation Month campaign follow CAU’s Instagram  page @cau1988.

About Clark Atlanta University
Clark Atlanta University was formed with the consolidation of Atlanta University and Clark College, both of which hold unique places in the annals of African-American history. Atlanta University, established in 1865 by the American Missionary Association, was the nation’s first institution to award graduate degrees to African-Americans. Clark College, established four years later in 1869, was the nation’s first four-year liberal arts college to serve a primarily African-American student population. Today, with nearly 4,000 students, CAU is the largest of the four institutions (CAU, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Morehouse School of Medicine) that comprise the Atlanta University Center Consortium. It is also the largest of the 37-member UNCF institutions.


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