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Photos of John Brown by Jade Wilson.

John Brown is Duke’s first full-time Vice Provost for the Arts.

As Vice Provost for the Arts, Brown leads the overall direction of the arts across Duke, oversees Duke Performances and the Rubenstein Arts Center, serves as the university liaison for the Center for Documentary Studies and the American Dance Festival, and works collaboratively to deepen the integration of the arts into the educational experience and extend the impact of the arts at Duke to Durham, the region, and beyond. The Vice Provost for the Arts also leads the Council for the Arts, an advisory board that draws from a wide range of departments and entities at Duke with a stake in the arts.

John V. Brown, Jr., J.D.
Vice Provost for the Arts
Director of the Jazz Program
Professor of the Practice of Music

Bassist, composer, educator and actor John Brown is a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and currently resides in Durham, NC. He is a graduate of the School of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the School of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He currently serves as Director of the Jazz Program and Associate Professor of the Practice of Music at Duke University, and has served on the faculties of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University and Guilford College (NC).

When he was very young, John took piano lessons from Frances Hunter (a close family friend), and began studying the bass when he was just 9 years old with his beloved teacher, Susan Ellington. He has been performing ever since. John began performing with the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra (NC) at age 13, and he was playing Principal Bass with that orchestra and performing with the Florence Symphony (SC) while still in high school. As a student in Fayetteville, John had several mentors (including Paul Scott, Walter McPherson, Richard H. L. Jones, Hennigan “Buddy” Kearns, Betsy Heath, Felix Sawyer, Jay Bolder, Alan Pierce, Janice James, Joy Cogswell, Alan Porter, Craig Brown, John Cubbage, the late Malachi Sharpe, Tom Gavin, Harlan Duenow and Ernest Plummer) who helped guide his interests and keep him focused on studying music.

As a student at UNC-Greensboro, he studied bass with Jack Budrow, performed with the Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Roanoke (VA) Symphony Orchestras, and while still an undergraduate, he began performing regularly with the North Carolina Symphony. In college, John also developed a great love for jazz, and began pursuing performance opportunities in both jazz and classical music. In college, he teamed with fellow student Thomas Taylor to form the jazz quartet, “In the Black,” and the group enjoy a successful career performing in the region.

Brown joined Duke University’s music department as an adjunct instructor in 2001, becoming assistant professor of the practice of music and director of the Duke Jazz Program in 2003. That same year he founded Jazz @ the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, a weekly live jazz jam session open to campus and community, now driven by student leadership in the Duke University Union. John Brown began his tenure as Duke’s first full-time Vice Provost for the Arts on July 1, 2020.