A lifelong jazz fan, Vincent “Vinny” Pelote is the senior archivist and digital preservation strategist at the Institute of Jazz Studies, an archive and library founded by famed jazz historian Marshall Stearns. Pelote came to Rutgers–Newark as a student in 1972, securing a work-study job at the institute. At the time, it was little more than a basement full of boxes, growing over time into a powerhouse collection of music history.
Pelote didn’t leave Rutgers at his graduation. In 1978, he returned to the institute as a cataloguer and went on to earn a master’s degree from Rutgers in the 1980s. In his interview with President Holloway for Faces & Voices, Pelote takes a deep dive into the precious collection of original jazz recordings and artifacts—and the many, many stories they’ve birthed—that he has helped to acquire, archive, and preserve during his 40-year career at the institute.
The institute, now the largest and most comprehensive jazz libraries and archives in the world, boasts a wide-ranging collection of rare and valued objects, such as Lester Young’s tenor saxophone, and is home to the Count Basie archive, featuring his home recordings, newspaper clippings, and correspondence. The institute is a go-to resource for researchers and students worldwide—and a treasured archive of materials that anyone in the community can experience firsthand.
Those who have not developed an appreciation for jazz, or who may not have had opportunities to be exposed to it, may wonder why an archivist would go to great lengths and devote extensive resources to keeping the history of this art form alive. The answer lies in its stunning variety, says Pelote. The importance of jazz is found not only in its artistic power, but in the fact that it is inclusive.
“One of the beauties of jazz, and the reason I think it attracts so many people, is because people from all types of backgrounds play this music and can play it together,” Pelote says. “Diversity is in the music.”
Watch Vincent Pelote sit down with Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway on Faces & Voices of Rutgers.