Johns Hopkins Magazine
Johns Hopkins Magazine Current Issue Past Issues Search Get In Touch
Y O U R    O T H E R    L I F E
Affairs Foreign and Familiar

Photo by Sam Kittner
Fred Starr splits his time between the political corridors of the nation's capital and the sultry halls of Southern jazz. Week to week, he might be called on to give a briefing on Afghanistan to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then jam on the saxophone at a New Orleans jazz club.

"It's very complicated, and sometimes nearly impossible," says Starr, a noted musician who is chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Hopkins' Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. During a two-day span in April he briefed the National Security Agency, National Geographic, the CIA, and a group of New York business people on the situation in Afghanistan and other issues. With homes in Washington and New Orleans, how does he fit it all in? "The glib answer is, 'I don't play tennis.'"

About two decades ago, Starr (also a former Oberlin College president, a Russian history specialist, book author, and New Orleans architecture aficionado) helped found the Louisiana Repertory Jazz Ensemble. The group, which has made six recordings, is a fixture on the New Orleans music scene and regularly plays at clubs and orchestra halls in Japan, Russia, Austria, and Istanbul. The nine-member ensemble focuses on music from New Orleans' early days of jazz, mostly syncopated dance music from the 1920s and earlier, including compositions by such artists as Jelly Roll Morton.

Starr, primarily a clarinetist, helped rediscover the style influenced by African, European, South American, and Caribbean music: He and his colleagues turned up scratchy recordings and tracked down musicians from the era. "We were digging up these forgotten pieces and forgotten styles for our own enjoyment," he says. "We wanted to get back to the original music." --Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson

Return to June 2002 Table of Contents

  The Johns Hopkins Magazine | The Johns Hopkins University | 3003 North Charles Street |
Suite 100 | Baltimore, Maryland 21218 | Phone 410.516.7645 | Fax 410.516.5251