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In recognition of his ongoing contribution to jazz, a Jazz Master's Award was presented to DAVE BRUBECK in January 1999, by the National Endowment for the Arts. He has also received the National Medal of the Arts from the NEA in a White House ceremony. His musical contributions over the past half-century as both pianist and composer have been honored by a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Youngest of three musical brothers, Dave Brubeck was born in Concord, California, on December 6, 1920. He entered the College of the Pacific as a pre-med student with the idea of becoming a veterinarian and returning to the ranch. Working his way through school as a jazz pianist in local clubs, he decided to forsake the cattle business and changed his college major to music. In 1942 he entered the Army, where he served under Patton in the European Theater. Upon his discharge in 1946, Dave studied composition with Darius Milhaud at Mills College.
Dave Brubeck and his Trio cut their first records in San Francisco in 1949 and won Best Small Combo awards in both the Critics' and Readers' Polls in Down Beat. When the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond on alto saxophone was formed in 1951, the distinctive harmonic approach employed by Brubeck and Desmond, and their daring improvised contrapuntal choruses, caused a stir in the jazz world, launching what later became known as "West Coast" or "cool" jazz.
By 1954 Brubeck's popularity was such that his picture appeared on the cover of Time and his recordings were being played throughout the world. He has performed before eight U.S. Presidents, princes, kings, heads of state, and Pope John Paul II.
An early experimenter in combining jazz with symphony orchestras, Brubeck continues to appear as composer-performer in concerts of his choral and symphonic compositions. He celebrated his 80th birthday with the London Symphony Orchestra performing an all-Brubeck program that featured him along with four of his sons and Bobby Militello as soloists.
Dave Brubeck has received many honors, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and honorary doctorates from six American universities, as well as the University of Duisburg in Germany and Nottingham University in England. The University of the Pacific has honored him by the establishment of The Brubeck Institute dedicated to the furtherance of contemporary music of all styles, with an emphasis on improvisation. In 1996 he was inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame. He has been cited by the French government for his contribution to the arts and received in the year 2000 a medal from the Bocconi University of Milan, Italy. The state of California has honored him with the Golden State award.