chapter  7
San Francisco State University’s Music Federation: The Political Machine Behind a Jazz Cooperative for Teachers
ByMeredith Eliassen
Pages 17

In 1956, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) defined the post-World War II jazz cooperative based upon his Octet organized in 1946: “we were a co-operative group, each man conducting and rehearsing the band in his own work.”1 Brubeck’s octet was comprised of four protégés of French composer Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) based in Oakland, California, along with three San Francisco State College (SFSC, now University) students and an amateur musician. Historian Kevin Starr observed the Octet played “some far out stuff, hardly recognizable as jazz at all.”2 The Octet found a champion with KNBC radio show host Jimmy Lyons, and Brubeck later branded West Coast jazz: “Through the indefatigable efforts of one Jimmy Lyons, news began to leak out that jazz did exist in San Francisco and that the Octet members were musicians with something to say.”3 Indeed, Brubeck was and continued to be a music innovator. However, in promoting Milhaud’s influence, Brubeck seemingly diminished the role of African American musicians in San Francisco’s Fillmore District in shaping the distinctive multicultural convergence of World War II veterans who successfully lobbied for educational equity with a pioneering course in jazz composition and performance at SFSC known as “Dance Band.”