Bruce Boyd Raeburn: Music Is In Bruce Raeburn's Genes
His father, Boyd Raeburn, was a big-band leader, and his mother, Ginnie Powell, was a jazz vocalist. Raeburn plays the drums as a sideline, while his "day job" as curator of Tulane University's Hogan Jazz Archive immerses him in all things jazz. He is also the director of special collections here at Tulane.
Raeburn earned his doctorate in Cultural History from Tulane in 1991. He's fascinated by New Orleans jazz because it encompasses all facets of American history: race, class, gender, age, ethnicity. Jazz emerged in a time of segregation, he points out, and it acted as an antidote because musicians cut across the color line and worked together to make great music.
The Hogan Jazz Archive, housed on the third floor of Jones Hall, is a resource for researchers from all over the world. Its treasures include 2,000 reels of oral history interviews, 50,000 titles of sheet music, albums, photographs, phonographs and musicians' memorabilia. Most of the collection is donated, although Raeburn makes occasional purchases. One of its missions is preservation; a current project is converting all those oral history reels to digital format. Right after Hurricane Katrina, the archive rescued stacks of memorabilia from the home of Danny Barker, which flooded. Barker died in the 1990s but a lot of his memorabilia was still stored in the home.
Raeburn teaches courses in the history and music departments at Tulane, and he is enthusiastic about a new undergraduate jazz studies major the music department is developing. His encyclopedic knowledge of New Orleans jazz had led him to consult with on-camera interviews for television and radio shows. He has also been a regular on WWNO Radio's monthly show, "Crescent City."
In his 39 years as a drummer, Raeburn has performed with James Booker, Earl King, Clark Vreeland and The Pfister Sisters. But performing regularly with a band is generally a "late-night gig," he says; nowadays he teams with local pianist Matt Scoggins to play at social events. His other interests include collecting music videos and films and making frequent visits to his birthplace, New York. He recently completed a critically-acclaimed book titled New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History.
Although his parents specialized in '40s music and his field of expertise is jazz, Raeburn likes rock 'n' roll, too, and says he tries to keep an open mind about all sorts of music. "I try to be eclectic," he says. He believes that music will constantly change to match the times in which it is created. "A world without music is inconceivable," he says.
At a Glance:
Bruce Boyd Raeburn, Ph.D.
Curator, Hogan Jazz Archive
Doctorate, U.S. History, Tulane University, 1991
Did You Know?
At the first commencement address for the Tulane Medical School in 1836, the Dean delivered his entire speech in Latin.