Joanne Brackeen Is NEA Jazz Master


On June 12, the 2018 National Endowment for the Arts NEA Jazz Masters award recipients were announced, and professor of piano Joanne Brackeen was named among them. Also on the list were guitarist Pat Metheny H’96, vocalist Dianne Reeves H’03, and producer, artistic programmer, and club owner Todd Barkan. The jazz masters were selected for their achievements logged during a lifetime in music and exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz. Each will receive a $25,000 award and will be honored at a tribute concert on April 16, 2018, in Washington, DC.

“I am surprised to be honored with the NEA’s prestigious award and to be in such inspiring company,” Brackeen stated after receiving word of the upcoming honor. “It feels marvelous and awesome, and it motivates and enables me to expand more in this intriguing and fascinating world of jazz.”

Born in Ventura, CA, Brackeen started playing the piano in her youth and was mostly self-taught. During the late 1950s, she began playing around Los Angeles with such jazzmen as Dexter Gordon, Harold Land, Charles Lloyd, Bobby Hutcherson, and others. After moving to New York in the 1960s, she began playing with George Benson H’90, Sonny Stitt, Woody Shaw, and others. In 1969 she became the first female member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. After stints in the bands of Joe Henderson and Stan Getz, Brackeen began releasing albums as a leader. To date, she has recorded more than two dozen albums with some 100 of her original compositions. Through the years, Brackeen’s band has featured Terence Blanchard, Michael Brecker, Ravi Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette, Eddie Gomez, Billy Hart, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Branford Marsalis, Cecil McBee, John Patitucci, Chris Potter, and Greg Osby.

Brackeen joined the Berklee faculty in 1994 and has been recognized as an educator with Berklee’s Distinguished Faculty Award and the Berklee Global Jazz Institute award as well as the outstanding educator award from the International Association for Jazz Education. As a performer and composer, Brackeen has received a living legend award from the International Women in Jazz and the BNY Mellon Jazz 2014 Living Legacy Award. She continues to tour and has performed across the globe in 46 countries.