September 26, 2017

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Departure of star U of M prof under cloud

SUBMITTED</p><p>Steve Kirby, former director of jazz studies at the University of Manitoba.</p>

SUBMITTED

Steve Kirby, former director of jazz studies at the University of Manitoba.

The University of Manitoba has imposed a cone of silence on the sudden resignation of renowned music Prof. Steve Kirby this summer.

The director of jazz studies in the Desautels Faculty of Music left his tenured job June 27.

Executive director of public affairs John Danakas would only say, “I can confirm that Steve Kirby retired in June.”

The university will not be commenting, Danakas said.

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The University of Manitoba has imposed a cone of silence on the sudden resignation of renowned music Prof. Steve Kirby this summer.

The director of jazz studies in the Desautels Faculty of Music left his tenured job June 27.

Executive director of public affairs John Danakas would only say, "I can confirm that Steve Kirby retired in June."

The university will not be commenting, Danakas said.

Music Dean Edmond Dawe has not responded to interview requests, and every trace of Kirby has disappeared from the faculty website, on which he was prominently mentioned in several places just weeks ago.

According to one source who spoke to the Free Press earlier this summer, the university was meeting with several female students to address concerns that were described as "sexual in nature."

"Steve has retired," his wife, Anna-Lisa Kirby, said in a phone interview. "June 27, he decided to retire to pursue his interest in composition."

Anna-Lisa is a sessional instructor in the music faculty and performs with her husband in a jazz band. She said Kirby was out of town and would not be giving interviews.

She said the university played no role in Kirby’s decision to retire and that there were no negotiations around his retirement.

"No, not that I know of. He just retired," she said.

Kirby is a 61-year-old musician and academic born in the U.S., with a long career as a jazz bassist. He joined the U of M in 2003.

In 2012, the university featured Kirby in its ‘pioneers’ advertising series, calling him a world-renowned musician and "powerhouse of a man" who pioneered the first jazz studies program in western Canada.

The music faculty website lists artists such as Wynton Marsalis and Regina Carter who have been drawn to campus.

"Our jazz studies faculty is made up of internationally renowned artists who are active in today’s jazz music scene. They continue to perform, compose and record regularly, and they invite jazz students to join them in their artistic adventures," said the university.

The Desautels faculty’s Twitter account and the music students’ Twitter account make no mention of Kirby’s retirement.

The Free Press contacted the nine music students who hold council positions for the 2017-2018 academic year. They were asked if the university had informed music students of Kirby’s departure, and if so, had the university provided any explanation; had Kirby informed his students he had left; what impact would his departure have on the faculty, on students’ studies, and on their own studies.

Only senior stick McKenzie Warriner responded, saying, "The Faculty of Music Students Association cannot comment on this story.

"Because most of the information we have surrounding Steve Kirby’s departure is rumours and hearsay, we decided as a council that we don’t feel comfortable commenting at this time on most of your questions. The only thing we know for sure is that the faculty has lined up teachers for all classes in the fall. Until more official information has been released, we can’t comment on anything else," Warriner said.

The U of M Faculty Association would not comment.

"There isn’t anything I would be able to say. It would be up to the member to determine what to say," UMFA president Prof. Janet Morrill said.

A brief, unexplained notice on the Desautels school website indicates, "Thank you for your interest in the 2017 Summer Jazz Camp. The jazz camp has been cancelled for this year, but we are already planning for next year."

The music faculty website says elsewhere that, "The music faculty Jazz Summer Camp is a unique opportunity for instrumentalists and vocalists at all levels to begin learning the essentials of small jazz ensemble playing. High school students, university students, jazz musicians and music educators are all welcome to take part in this week-long, fun experience."

 

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

 

Read more by Nick Martin.

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