If all had gone well, tonight was to have been the wonderful night. At 8:30 o'clock in Sanders Theatre, the Music Department was to present Duke Ellington and his orchestra in a program of important Ellington compositions.
The concert would have been notable for many reasons. It would be the first time a jazz band played a serious concert at Harvard, the first time Negroes have performed here. The program would have differed from the Carnegie Hall and Symphony Hall concerts, in that the emphasis was to be on music, not exhibitionism. Ellington was playing here because the Music Department felt that his music had something to say, and because Ellington wanted an audience he didn't have to play down to.
All this has passed from the going-to-be into the was-to-have-been. Everything on this end was all set up. Four days before the news was to be released, the agency asked us to postpone the concert. We'd already postponed it once; we couldn't postpone it again. What the gentlemen in New York did not know was that our potential audience, the audience that Duke was so anxious to play for, was leaving the school in droves. They didn't know that Jim Nuland, who was handling the business end, and I had other things to do. i myself have divisionals the end of this month to prepare for. I don't ordinarily consider myself indispensible, but this was one time when I was the only man.
The gist of the matter is that the agency was more interested in previous commitments, chiefly Duke's opening April 1st at the Hurricane in New York, and they had no idea of the urgency of affairs. Nor did we have any idea of their attitude until too late. if they had been a little more on their toes, the story might have ended happily. For example, the first time we heard from the agency direct was two weeks after Duke had phoned them the news.
What will never cease to amaze me is that we got as far as we did. In all our dealings with the University we never had the slightest bit of trouble. When I first approached Mr. Merritt of the Music Department with the idea of the concert, I had my doubts as to my success. Not only was he interested, however, but even though it was not in the original plan, the Department voted to sponsor the affair.
What will also never cease to amaze me is that the gentlement in New didn't gobble up such a golden opportunity. Blame it on "dat ole debbil Commercialism".
The little consolation the men of Harvard will have from this affair is that Duke broadcasts from the Hurricane nearly every night at 10:45. WNAC, which should be carrying it, does not, only WOR, 700 kilocycles. "Dat ole debbil, he knows way."