Center for Africana Studies & Culture at IUPUI announces renowned Indianapolis-based jazz musician Rob Dixon as inaugural Artist in Residence

The Center for Africana Studies & Culture (CASC) in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI announces renowned Indianapolis-based jazz musician Rob Dixon as its inaugural Artist in Residence for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 academic years. Founded in 2020, CASC endeavors to create venues and opportunities for a more comprehensive engagement of the Black experience by operationalizing the academic work of the Africana Studies Program. In this new role, Dixon will serve as an ambassador for CASC and promote the proliferation of public-facing events and creative activity as an outlet for artistic expression on campus and in the community.

This project is made possible with generous funding from the Indianapolis Arts and Humanities Institute and the Indianapolis Foundation.

“As part of Mr. Dixon’s tenure with us, he will engage the campus and community in a series of multi-formatted creative presentations highlighting jazz as a Black Cultural Heritage product,” said Dr. Leslie K. Etienne, director of the Africana Studies Program and the founding executive director of CASC. “With his esteemed and extensive performance and teaching experience, we are thrilled at the opportunity to have him in this important role for the Center.”

Dixon, a tenor saxophonist who moved to the top of the New York City jazz scene before moving back to Indianapolis in 2003, continues to work with internationally renowned artists while also serving as an adjunct professor at IUPUI and jazz studies lecturer at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music. He is the founder of the ensemble Triology as well as the Indianapolis Jazz Collective, an ensemble that has recorded an album titled “Jazz on Canvas'' and includes pianist Steve Allee, bassist Nick Tucker, Trumpeter Marlin McKay, and drummer Kenny Phelps. He also serves as the Artistic Director for Indy Jazz Fest, and mentors the Jazz Futures, an Indianapolis Jazz Foundation-sponsored ensemble comprised of talented high school students. Dixon, who studied at Hampton University and Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, continues to perform, and tour frequently in the United States and abroad.

“I’m honored to have this opportunity to be further embedded in the IUPUI campus community,” said Dixon. “Jazz history and its impact within both Black history and Indianapolis as a whole is significant, and I look forward to delving into all of it in some really creative ways with the programming we have planned.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Mr. Dixon to the School of Liberal Arts,” said Tami Eitle, dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts. “His involvement, along with prestigious fellow, Ms. A”Lelia Bundles, will undoubtedly raise student engagement with innovative arts and humanities-based themes which are a hallmark of our academic and community work.”

The Artist in Residence activities will include:

  • CASC Presents Salon Noir Series with Rob Dixon

Dixon will present three interactive public lectures that frame the history of jazz music and its founding within a Black historical context. Lectures will focus on the ways jazz has developed as a worldwide phenomenon; Indianapolis and its Jazz heritage on Indiana Avenue; and the broader influence and impact of Jazz on popular culture situated in the context of its origins within Black culture.

  • Jazz in the 21st century

Dixon will lead a youth-focused series of interactive activities titled Jazz in the 21st Century with Indianapolis Public School students and in conjunction with an Africana Studies/CASC faculty member. This will include an interactive jazz performance program designed for school-aged children, and a booklet written by Dixon and Africana Studies faculty for school-aged students on jazz as Cultural Heritage.

  • MusicLife Series

This audience-interactive jazz performance program is designed to take the audience member through the history of jazz using a small jazz ensemble, historic jazz film footage on two screens flanked on both sides of the ensemble, a poet to narrate, and dynamic lighting to enhance the performance experience. This series will be specifically for IUPUI students, staff, and faculty and two performances are scheduled for Spring 2024.

  • 10,000 Ships

The performance-based composition Dixon will work on during the Artist-in-Residence period. It will be performed in partnership with CASC.

For more information on programming, please contact Dr. Etienne.

About the Center for Africana Studies & Culture at IUPUI: Through its community-engaged programming and research, the Center for Africana Studies and Culture (CASC) provides an academically rigorous, socially engaging, and relevant learning environment for the study of Africa and the African Diaspora.

In 2020, the university established the Center for Africana Studies and Culture through the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. The center will broaden the scope of the school’s existing Africana Studies program, increasing opportunities for public scholarship, professional learning, undergraduate research, and community-engaged cultural and research programming. The new center is housed in the Madam Walker Legacy Center, strengthening IUPUI’s partnership with that Indianapolis cultural treasure as it serves the community with cultural education and programming.