HAMILTON, N.Y.—George Avakian, a legendary jazz producer, recording industry innovator, and music historian, received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Colgate University at Colgate’s 2014 commencement on May 18.
“George Avakian has provided the soundtrack for generations of jazz listeners and enthusiasts,” said Colgate’s president, Jeffrey Herbst, about Avakian’s career. “He introduced listeners to new ways to enjoy and understand music, and assured a great legacy for some of the world’s greatest creators and performers, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Mahalia Jackson.”
Avakian’s love of jazz began as boy listening to late-night broadcasts of Fats Waller and Duke Ellington, and he began writing about jazz as a student for the Horace Mann School newspaper. As a sophomore at Yale, he convinced Decca Records to let him create the world’s first reissue album, “Chicago Jazz.” It wasn’t long before Columbia Records invited him to produce “Hot Jazz Classics,” which became a revolutionary retrospective LP for listeners across the globe.
After serving his country in World War II, Avakian became a music industry executive, a writer and commentator, an educator, manager, and pioneer of new technology. He brought us the 33 1/3 LP that remains the format audio aficionados prefer to this day.He is an inspiration and role model to people of any age who are determined to turn their artistic passion into not only a gratifying life, but also a service to the world.
Peter Balakian, Donald M and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities at Colgate, presented Avakian with the honor.