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Wayne Winborne is ‘The Man’ at the Institute for Jazz Studies.

By Kelly-Jane Cotter

Photos by Daryl Stone

As the largest jazz archive in the world, the Institute of Jazz Studies on the Rutgers–Newark campus is home to material that is precious to musicians, scholars and fans. There are more than 150,000 recordings and 6,000 books in its collection. The wealth of information at the IJS has drawn to its doors such luminaries as director Ken Burns, who relied upon the archives when researching for his PBS documentary series Jazz.

Whoosh! When the door to this room is opened, cool air hits you like a trumpet’s blare. The Institute of Jazz Studies is one cool place…literally.

“Sixty-one degrees and 57 percent humidity,” says Adriana P. Cuervo, Associate Director, as she checks the thermostat. “That’s good. We can’t prevent the decay of paper-based materials forever, but we can delay it as much as possible. This is for things that are one-of-a-kind, the oldest and rarest things in our collection.”

The treasures includes awards, such as a 1992 Grammy won by the composer Benny Carter, who also was an arranger, band leader and multi-instrumentalist; and personal items, such as trumpeter/band leader Dizzy Gillespie’s camera. A hat box contains a demure wig worn by Ella Fitzgerald, along with the singer’s spectacular cat’s eye glasses, black-rimmed and sparkling with crystals at the corners (left). Cuervo opens a cabinet to reveal shelves of beloved brass instruments at rest. With gloved hands, she picks up swing artist Bobby Hackett’s cornet and examines it as a scholar would. These are relics that can offer insight into the techniques of the finest jazz stars.

“What types of valves did they use?” Cuervo asks. “Did they modify the instrument in any way? Did they stretch this pipe an inch or so?”

Carefully, she places the cornet back on its shelf and closes the cabinet. She flicks off the lights, leaves the room and closes the door behind her, allowing the cool air to do its work. The temperature is warmer in the main area of the archive, but make no mistake, this place is still chill. This figurative coolness comes from the people who work here and the reason they’re here: for the love of jazz. They are led by Wayne Winborne, who became Executive Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies in the summer of 2015.


Wayne Winborne (right), with his friendly-sounding, alliterative name, has a conversational style that verges on jazzy. He can start a sentence with a mention of John Coltrane, shift over to Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards, then tap out the theme to Peter Gunn, the private-eye TV series from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, as a way of illustrating the breadth and depth of jazz’s influence on American culture.

“The spirit and the vibe is my favorite thing about this place,” Winborne says. “We have people who’ve been here a long time and people who are newer, with me being the newest, and woven throughout this tapestry is this love for the music, this desire to share the joys and the mystery of this music. My job here requires a love of the art and being comfortable with and having the talent for raising money,” he says.

Winborne, who lives in Brooklyn, has worked in academia and business, in both the corporate and non-profit sectors. For the past six years, he has headed his own business consulting firm, the Winborne Group, based in New York and Los Angeles. Before that, he worked in Newark for eight years as vice president for business diversity outreach for Prudential Financial.

Previously, Winborne was director of program and policy research at The National Conference for Community and Justice, program officer at the Ford Foundation, senior research coordinator at the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, and adjunct lecturer in psychology and research methods at New York University and the City University of New York’s Baruch and Medgar Evers colleges.

In addition to his impressive resume, Winborne has a knack for connecting with people.

“When you meet and talk to Wayne, ten seconds later, you feel like you’ve known him your whole life,” says John Schreiber, president and CEO of New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. “Jazz is very community-minded. It’s a collaborative music. And Wayne is an infectious collaborator.”

Winborne knows how to play the saxophone, though he does not bring this up himself, in deference to the “real” musicians he encounters at IJS. Winborne also is a jazz producer and has been a consultant and adviser to musicians, artists, filmmakers, playwrights and theater producers. He is also an avid jazz fan who therefore faces many potential distractions at his current job.

“I don’t like to get back to the stacks,” he says, referring to the row upon row of compelling books and recordings in the archives. “I just get lost in there. I wouldn’t get anything done if I let myself go back there.”

Winborne was hired after the retirement of his predecessor, Dan Morgenstern, the illustrious jazz historian and former editor of Down Beat magazine, who won eight Grammy Awards for his liner notes to jazz albums. Morgenstern, as Director Emeritus, still frequents the IJS, and when he comes by one afternoon, Winborne greets him with a warm hug.

Morgenstern’s impact was such that when he announced his retirement, the IJS decided two positions were needed to replace him. The institute hired Vincent Pelote as Director of Operations, responsible for curating the archive, and Winborne as Executive Director, “charged with forging partnerships to elevate the visibility and appreciation of the archive locally, nationally and globally,” as the IJS stated in its announcement of the hiring.

“The challenge is to find the balance between providing an outlet for creative expression and opening minds and ears to the music,” Winborne says, “and to a deep and rigorous study of the art form.”

It is no small task.


The IJS was founded in 1952 by Marshall Stearns, a jazz critic and author who had an extensive jazz collection. Rutgers acquired the archives in 1966. But despite its long history in Newark, and its prestige among the jazz cognoscenti, a lot of ordinary people simply don’t know it exists. The institute is not visible from University Avenue. It is on the fourth floor of the John Cotton Dana Library on campus. You won’t be walking down the street and think, Oh, let me pop in and see what this is. You have to know it’s there and seek it out. Then, you’d be welcome to pop in and browse the stacks or sit in the listening room. If you made an appointment, then the IJS would be sure to have someone there to guide you and get you what you need.

Meanwhile, Winborne can’t just set up a neon arrow along University Avenue and direct people’s eyes to the building. Instead, he plans to lure them to the archive with the very music itself.

“What makes it jazz?” he wonders. “It’s cool. It’s sophisticated. People want to opt-in to that category. We want this to be a living archive, to be preserving and protecting this music, and also helping folks access it.”

What do jazz musicians want?

“They want folks to fall in love to the music,” Winborne says, “to express their frustrations and hopes with the music.”

To that end, the IJS has begun strengthening its relationship with NJPAC and with other anchors of Newark’s arts and culture communities. Schreiber points to a series of programs last fall and winter as evidence of the creative thinking in this new partnership. “Jazz, Jews and African Americans” brought together—among others—the IJS, NJPAC, and the Jewish Museum of New Jersey, housed at Congregation Avahas Sholom in Newark, for an exhibit and programming aimed at a diverse audience.

This summer, NJPAC and the IJS teamed up to bring an all-female jazz residency to 15 Washington St., a 1929 skyscraper nicknamed “15 Wash,” which was recently transformed into Rutgers student housing. The young women lived and learned at the facility for a week, led by Artistic Director Geri Allen. 15 Wash also features the Great Hall, an open-space venue that can accommodate 450 people.

In August, NJPAC and the IJS were set to present five shows at Clement’s Place, a 50-seat club on the first floor of 15 Wash, named for the late Dr. Clement Price, founder and Director of the Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience, Newark’s city historian, and a devoted fan of jazz.

“A lot of people think jazz is complicated or intimidating,” Schreiber says. “But Wayne is what I call a Y’all Come guy, someone who says, ‘This’ll be fun, try this.’ He is a good ambassador for the music.”

For the future, Winborne plans a series of live music every other week at Clement’s Place this fall, along with curated listening sessions that would eventually stream to the IJS website and possibly to WBGO. He envisions spoken-word events and salsa nights with dance lessons, along the lines of Lincoln Center’s popular outdoor series. The IJS also will benefit from Rutgers’s new Arts and Cultural Center in the restored Hahne’s department store building on Broad Street.

“The first exhibit there will be an overview of the collections from the Institute of Jazz Studies,” Winborne says.

“Everything we do here, it’s all in service to the community and the music,” he adds. “We need art and artifacts and music to help us dream and define our reality beyond what we can see to what it can be.”

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