Patrick Langham plays, performs, and teaches the craft

A Life Dedicated to Jazz

“It all started when I was in elementary school,” says Patrick Langham, director of Jazz Studies at University of the Pacific. “I went to audition for elementary school band and already had it in my mind that I wanted to play trumpet. The band instructor asked everyone to buzz into the trumpet to see if you had lips that made a good buzz. So, I tried to buzz into it, and it just sounded horrible,” Patrick laughs.

“As you can imagine, I went home that night discouraged. But little did I know, a Taco Bell commercial featuring a guy playing the saxophone with fire coming out and two beautiful women on each side of him, was going to lead me to reach for the instrument that would change my life.” The next day, Patrick went back to school, and told the band instructor that he wanted to play saxophone. “And that was it,” he says, “I’ve played saxophone my whole life.”

Throughout his high school years, Patrick became quite accomplished in jazz, which lead to his being selected as the lead alto saxophonist in the Tennessee All-State Jazz Band. “The band director for this jazz ensemble just so happened to be a man by the name of Jerry Coker, the head of jazz studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville,” says Patrick. “When the concert was over, I went up to shake Jerry’s hand, and he told me, ‘Son I think you’ve got a bright future playing this music if you’re so interested, and if you want to come to the University of Tennessee, I can guarantee you a scholarship.’ So, I was in,” Patrick says.

After finishing his undergrad work at the University of Tennessee, Patrick was left trying to figure out what he wanted to do next, and like most college graduates, he decided that he wanted to make some money, so he started selling cars. After successfully doing that for a summer, he knew it wasn’t a career he wanted for life, so he called his mother for advice, and she told him that he needed to pick up the phone, call Jerry Coker, and ask if he had any grad school openings.  

Patrick followed her instructions and called Jerry who replied, “I’m so glad you called, Patrick, I’ve got a grad assistantship open, and it’s yours if you want it.” Patrick took it, got his master’s in jazz, and didn’t have to pay a dime for grad school.

Post grad school, it was as if the stars aligned when an opening came up for Patrick to be the first Director of Jazz Studies at the University of South Carolina, Upstate campus. He was hired to build a program. He immediately rolled up his sleeves and started surveying what would be the appropriate curriculum for students and getting the necessary approvals to move forward.

“This experience is what I think largely made me attractive to University of the Pacific,” says Patrick. “When I came to Pacific, I was once again allowed to develop curriculum, build the program, and recruit students. This really has been the hallmark of my career.”

Patrick references an old jazz song entitled, “Nice Work if You Can Get It.” “I’ve been able to have wonderful students that have gone on and done great things, I oversee a wonderful faculty, I make sure that our curriculum is evolving to meet the student demands of the day, I’m performing with students and faculty members, and I’m traveling. It’s like the dream gig for somebody who loves jazz,” says Patrick.

He also performs his own music, as well, with a jazz club called Take 5. Every Thursday from February 3 to April 28, Take 5 performs at Valley Brewing Company around 7 PM. “Locals can expect to hear some of the talented faculty members, students, and also visiting artists that are coming through the area,” says Patrick.

See Patrick play:

Valley Brewing Company
157 W. Adams St., Stockton

“I’m blessed to be building something that is hopefully not only serving the students, but serving our institution, and our community,” – Patrick Langham, Director of Jazz Studies