Music Inn - A Documentary Film - Introduction


“They’re doing wonderful things up there. 
They’re really helping make music history.”
 - Louis Armstrong

There was a time in the 1950s when musical giants strutted the Berkshire Hills in Western Massachusetts.  Be-boppers, folk singers, African drummers, blues singers, jazz legends, poets, and musicologists gathered at a place called Music Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts, just a stone’s throw away from classical music’s most famous summer festival at Tanglewood, to share their converging traditions and go looking for roots most people didn’t think even existed.  In their search, they created not only the first summer-long Jazz Festival, and the First School of Jazz, but a new movement in American music.  It was that kind of unique, magical configuration of people and ideas that rarely occurs in the arts, but permanently alters the cultural landscape.  In this case, it changed the world of American music, how we understand the meaning of America, and how the world came to appreciate the art of jazz.

During a decade rife with paranoia, in the middle of the McCarthy era, Music Inn was a bold experiment.  Halfway between the Second World War and The Civil Rights Movement, Phil and Stephanie Barber created an oasis where aspiring musicians came to learn from the very best.  Students and faculty, young and old, rich and poor, white, black, and brown convened together and learned from each other.  Defying the surrounding environment, Music Inn harbored a racial and cultural harmony where music was all that mattered. 


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