Musical Showdown

Duke Ellington gif
Duke Ellington with his band. Source

Ritchie Coliseum is a well-known fixture on our campus (see University of Maryland A to Z under letter R). We know the coliseum as one of the many campus venues for recreation and wellness and as the home of our men’s basketball team from 1932 to 1955 –- but it has also hosted historic campus performances! Imagine in 1956 one of the world’s most famous jazz musicians, Duke Ellington, bringing the “Big Band” style of music to the University of Maryland in a spectacular showdown. For the fall 1956 season opener, Ritchie Coliseum hosted a Jazz vs. Classics Pop Concert. As reported by The Diamondback, the cost to students to witness this historic concert was only $1 (that’s just $8.72 today with inflation)!

Duke Ellington
Announcement of the Ellington performance at Ritchie Coliseum, October 25, 1956

Duke Ellington is known for elevating the perception of jazz music to spectacular heights. He posthumously earned a 1999 Pulitzer Prize for music “in recognition of his musical genius, which evoked aesthetically the principles of democracy through the medium of jazz and thus made an indelible contribution to art and culture.” [1] In October 1956, when he came to campus, Ellington was in the midst of a career-making world tour. Only a few months prior to his campus visit, he had performed at the Newport Jazz Festival – an annual music festival held in Newport, Rhode Island – in one of the festival’s most historic performances. You can listen to recordings from that 1956 festival performance via the Internet Archive.

Duke Ellington’s campus performance is just one of the many important and interesting records of campus history found in The Diamondback. In order to facilitate online access to the entire run of The Diamondback, from 1910 to the present, the University Archives is in the process of digitizing the student newspaper from microfilm. Thanks to a successful Launch UMD campaign, we can look forward to accessing these newspapers online in 2016! This post is the fifth in a series about the Diamondback Digitization project written by graduate assistant Jen Wachtel. Check the Twitter hashtag #digiDBK or the DigiDBK tag on the Terrapin Tales blog for previous updates.

If you love political trivia, stay tuned for the next post!




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