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Dr. James Hardy Patterson, Founder & CEO


A composer, conductor, arranger, performer on reeds and woodwinds, professor of music and founder of the Clark Atlanta University Jazz Orchestra, Professor James Hardy Patterson has dedicated half a century of his life to jazz education and last November held the inaugural event to benefit his foundation, whose mission is to further preservation, promotion and education concerning our culture in Atlanta, where his roots are deep.

Having graduated from Clark College (as CAU was then called) in 1957, and following two years of military service (during which he organized and directed the Drum and Bugle Corps at Ft. Jackson, SC., performed throughout Germany and greater Europe with the Seventh Army Band), James Patterson returned to Clark to work as first assistant band director under the legendary Wayman Carver, who introduced the flute to jazz during the Swing Era and taught budding “new thing” saxophonists George Adams and Marion Brown when they were students at Clark. 

The next step for Patterson, however, was to join the Motown Sound band, supporting such of the record labels’ superstars as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight and the Pips. While in that ensemble he earned his Masters in Music from University of Michigan, and upon returning to Clark in the mid ’70s, he established the CAU Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Orchestra, taking the latter on international tours with performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival, St. Louis Jazz Festival in Senegal, and Ghana Heritage Jazz Festival in Ghana, among other stops. 

Over the course of the subsequent four decades he has directed CAU’s Jazz Studies program, been on the executive board and an officer of the Atlanta Federation of Musicians, and a delegate from AFM Local 148-462 to the Atlanta/North Georgia Labor Council. Professor Patterson is good with organizations — he has served on the Contracts for Arts and Services Advisory Panel (Music Category) for the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and been a member of the North American Saxophone Alliance-World Saxophone Congress, the National Flute Association, the International Clarinet Society and International Double Reed Society, among other music educators’ groups. He’s also performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Pops Orchestra and numerous musicians: Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Faddis and the Cab Calloway Orchestra, to drop a few names. 

But his main focus is on giving back to the community he’s lived in, which is why he’s established the James Hardy Patterson Foundation. The 2013 Jazz Hero honor for James Hardy Patterson from the Jazz Journalist Association not only acknowledges his accomplishments to Atlantans, but also shares word of his membership in an estimable circle of highly respected jazz educators, mentors, and performers with the world-wide jazz community. There is no doubt Atlanta is a better city for having Professor Patterson, our Jazz Hero, as a citizen.