Alum Donates $1.6 Million to Jazz Department


Courtesy of Oberlin College

James R. Neumann and Susan Neumann Donate 1.6M to Conservatory Jazz Department

The Conservatory received a monumental $1.6 million donation from James R. and Susan Neumann to establish a new postdoctoral fellowship position in Jazz History. The soon-to-be announced fellow will have the chance to teach a slate of newly-offered classes in the Jazz department, as well as pursue individual research projects in conjunction with Oberlin students. The endowed position will begin in fall 2022 and will cycle every two years.  

The donation from the Neumanns builds upon their prior gifts to the Jazz department over the past few decades. In 2011, the Neumanns donated more than 100,000 artifacts documenting the history of jazz from its inception. Now, $100,000 of this most recent donation will go toward supporting the Neumann Jazz Collection.

With the recent establishment of a minor in African American Music, as well as the hiring of a new professor in African American and African Diasporic Music, this donation helps cement the Conservatory’s push toward including marginalized music as part of a formal study in its curriculum.

“The Neumanns’ magnanimous gifts to Oberlin Conservatory reflect their ongoing, passionate dedication to preserve and propagate jazz as a true American art form, a notion that certainly resonates profoundly with the students and faculty of the Jazz department,” wrote Director and Associate Professor of Jazz Studies Jay Ashby.

According to Conservatory Library Head Deborah Campana, the donation will allow students to immerse themselves within the world of history, sound, and social movements that jazz encapsulates. As they navigate the terrain of this new subfield, students will have a Jazz History professor to serve as a guide, encouraging them to foster their own perspectives on key topics.

“Whether studying jazz, contemporary culture, or African-American history, students can experience a sort of material culture in sound and documents, and a newly-minted jazz historian will stimulate them to develop their own interpretations of the social and artistic developments evolving from the unique art form, jazz,” Campana said.

Campana extended her gratitude to the Neumanns and acknowledged how their support will extend long into the future.

“In the Neumann Collection, the Oberlin College and Conservatory were gifted the treasure trove of ardent collectors,” Campana said. “Now in providing the funds to take care of the collection and the endowment to support a postdoctoral fellowship, [James] and Susan have ensured that their passion lives on into the future.”