David Ake


(305) 284-2824
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About Me


My primary goal as both a musicologist and a teacher is to show how music reflects and shapes notions of individual and group identity. In other words—and to paraphrase the wonderful scholar Christopher Small—I seek to understand how people use sound to explore, affirm, and celebrate who they are.


David Ake is professor and chair of the Department of Musicology at the Frost School of Music. In addition to overseeing the administrative workings of the department, Professor Ake teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on music history and occasionally coaches small jazz ensembles and teaches private lessons.

An award-winning scholar and educator in the fields of jazz and popular music, Ake authored the books Jazz Cultures; Jazz Matters: Sound, Place, and Time since Bebop; and the collection Jazz/Not Jazz: The Music and Its Boundaries (co-edited with Charles Hiroshi Garrett and Daniel Goldmark), all for the University of California Press. He also contributed chapters or articles to the Cambridge Companion to Jazz, American Music, Jazz Perspectives, and many other publications. He has delivered papers at the national meetings of the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, as well as keynote addresses to conferences in England and Canada, and guest lectures at universities across the US.

Professor Ake also remains active as a jazz pianist and composer. His recording credits include the solo-piano release In Between and a series of critically acclaimed projects for the Posi-Tone label: Bridges, Lake Effect, Humanities, Slingshot, and Green Thumb. He has performed or recorded alongside a host of renowned musicians, including Ralph Alessi, Scott Colley, Ravi Coltrane, Peter Epstein, Mark Ferber, Gerry Gibbs, Drew Gress, Charlie Haden, Clifford Jarvis, Boris Kozlov, Brian Landrus, Sam Minaie, Ben Monder, Tony Malaby, James Newton, and Rudy Royston.

Prior to joining the Frost School of Music, Professor Ake chaired the Department of Music at Case Western Reserve University and was a longtime faculty member at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), where he served as Director of the School of the Arts, among other leadership positions. Ake’s honors include the Nevada Regents’ Teaching Award and the Society for American Music’s Housewright Dissertation Award. He holds a Ph.D. in musicology and MA in ethnomusicology from UCLA, along with degrees in jazz performance from the California Institute of the Arts and the Frost School of Music.


Honors & Acknowledgements

Professional Experience

Career Highlights

I have been very fortunate to participate in a wide range of musical activities alongside many creative and dedicated artists, colleagues, and students. That said, it is always exciting to see one’s work come to fruition in a tangible way, so I would have to say the highlights of my career are the publications of my books and the releases of my recordings.

Selected Publications


  • Jazz Matters: Sound, Time, & Place Since Bebop (Univ of California Press, 2010)
  • Jazz Cultures (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002)
  • Jazz/Not Jazz: The Music and its Boundaries, David Ake, Charles Hiroshi Garrett, Daniel Goldmark, editors (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012) 

Selected Articles and Chapters

  • "After Wynton: Rethinking Jazz Cultures in the Post Neo-Traditional Era," in The Routledge Companion to Jazz Studies (Routledge, 2018)
  • “On the Ethics of Teaching Jazz,” in Improvisation and Music Education: Beyond the Classroom (Routledge, 2016)
  • “Learning Jazz, Teaching Jazz,” in the Cambridge Companion to Jazz (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

Selected Recordings

As a Leader:

  • Humanities (Posi-Tone Records, 2018)
  • Lake Effect (Posi-Tone Records, 2015)
  • Bridges (Posi-Tone Records, 2013)
  • In Between (solo piano) (2005, [reissued Posi-Tone Records, 2012])
  • Sound and Time (Posi-Tone Records, 1998)

with the Collective: Once and Again (2008), Balance (2005), Boats (2003), North (2000)

with EEA (Peter Epstein, Larry Engstrom, David Ake): The Dark (Origin Arts, 2010)

As a sideman: played on records led by David Borgo, Chris Clark, Phil Farris, Brian Landrus, and others

Selected Honors, Awards & Competitions

  • Nevada System of Higher Education Regents Teaching Award (statewide), 2010
  • Donald Tibbitts Distinguished Teacher of the Year, UNR (university wide), 2009
  • Mousel-Feltner Award for Outstanding Research & Creative Activity, UNR, 2002
  • Housewright Dissertation Award, Society for American Music, 2000.