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Archivist Vincent Pelote stands in the racks at the Institute of Jazz Studies holding a clarinet.

Faces & Voices of Rutgers: Vincent Pelote

A lifelong jazz fan, Vincent “Vinny” Pelote, senior archivist and digital preservation strategist, came to Rutgers–Newark as a student in 1972, securing a work-study job at the Institute of Jazz Studies, an archive and library founded by famed jazz historian Marshall Stearns. At the time, the institute 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.

Preserving and keeping alive the story of jazz is vitally important, not just as an art form, but because it is inclusive music. 

“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.”