The Jazzinstitut was founded in 1990, after the city acquired the collection of broadcasting editor, producer and jazz expert Joachim Ernst Berendt in the 1980s. Berendt’s albums, books, magazines, photos and other documents relating to the centennial history of jazz were soon complemented by collections that have turned the Jazzinstitut into the largest public jazz collection in Europe – and the third-largest in the world.
Overall, the Jazzinstitut acts on three levels. Locally, in Darmstadt and its environs, it is known for concerts in the historic vaulted basement of the Kavaliershaus, which features excellent acoustics. But also for the “Jazz Conceptions”, a week-long summer workshop, which the institute hosts every year in cooperation with the cultural centre Bessunger Knabenschule. Nationally, the Jazzinstitut is prized as an independent facility that understands the structure of an extremely creative scene and as a service partner for musicians, event organizers, and cultural administrators. Internationally, the institute has gained renown as a key point of contact for jazz research.
By interweaving those three levels – regional cultural work, national lobbying, and international scientific work – the Jazzinstitut has been doing a widely regarded job for 20 years. Even researchers from the birthplace of jazz, the USA, repeatedly turn to Darmstadt for competent assistance.
The Jazzinstitut Darmstadt, thus, attempts to bridge the gaps between science and practical experience, between service for a volunteerism-dependent music genre and the careful documentation of past and present musical developments, as well as between regional cultural work and international discourse. However, the institute does not function from within the proverbial ivory tower. Visitors are very welcome.
Since 1990, Dr. Wolfram Knauer has been heading the Jazzinstitut Darmstadt while lecturing at several German colleges and universities. He organizes the
biennial Darmstadt Jazz Forum, publishes the “Darmstädter Beiträge zur Jazzforschung” (Darmstadt’s contributions to jazz research) series of books, is a member of the editorial board of the international journal Jazz Perspectives, and is the author of numerous scientific contributions to books and journals. In the spring of 2008, he became the first non-American Louis Armstrong Professor of Jazz Studies at Columbia University in New York.