Published on September 25, 2007
Some of Thailand's top musicians now have the opportunity to benefit from one of the most prestigious jazz courses in the United States, at the University of North Texas' College of Music.
In July representatives of music colleges from around the world gathered for a seminar hosted by UNT that in part fostered joint studies with Thai universities.
A significant number of UNT graduates are now faculty members and administrators at Thai universities.
UNT had signed an agreement with 35 of the country's Rajabhat universities by which it will provide doctoral instruction to faculty members. This will enable them to upgrade their academic credentials and prepare for the more comprehensive role these schools are assuming in Thailand.
The UNT course was founded in 1947, making it one of the oldest in the world, and regularly has big-name artists performing for the students - if not actually teaching.
And in 2004 UNT awarded His Majesty the King a music doctorate in recognition of his talent on the piano, saxophone, clarinet, guitar and violin and his compositions in English and French.
A devoted fan of jazz and blues since his youth, the King has performed with such legends as Jack Teagarden, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman and Stan Getz.
UNT dean James C Scott - who won a coveted seat with the Atlanta Symphony while still a student - says the college is a dream destination for ambitious jazz talents.
Jazz, he points out, has become an integral part of life in the US. "Real jazz is America's classical music," he says.
And UNT is a musical palace, with books replaced by instruments. Beautiful music comes from all directions.
The college has 300 practice rooms, eight performance halls, a 235-seat recital hall, the 300-seat Lyric Theatre, the 635-seat Concert Hall and the 1,100-seat Winspear Performance Hall.
There is also the Stan Kenton Jazz Recital Hall, the Merrill Ellis Intermedia Theatre and an organ recital hall.
Kenton, one of the all-time greats of jazz, donated his entire collection of records and papers to UNT's Music Library, helping make it a major national research centre. It has more than 270,000 books, periodicals, microforms, and electronic resources and half a million sound recordings, going all the way back to Edison wax cylinders.
Younger music fans will be interested to know that Norah Jones is a UNT alumnus.
The bands that have formed at the university usually take their names from their rehearsal times, which is how the 25-member One O'Clock Jazz Lab Band came to be.
The winners of numerous awards, starting with Best Band honours at the 1961 Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival, the One O'Clock ensemble performed at President Lyndon Johnson's White House while His Majesty was a guest. In 2004 the King invited them to Thailand to play for him again when he accepted his honorary doctorate.
The concert featured several of His Majesty's compositions, among them "Love at Sundown", "Friday Night Rag", "Oh I Say" and "When and Lay Kram Goes Dixie".