John Murphy (’84, ’86 M.M.), 60, Professor Emeritus of jazz history and former chair of the Division of Jazz Studies, died March 8.
He taught at UNT from 2001 to 2020, serving as chair of jazz studies for 11 years. He designed the jazz major for the D.M.A. in performance and taught jazz history, research methods, styles and analysis, as well as serving on thesis committees in the ethnomusicology area. He was chair of the Division of Music History, Theory and Ethnomusicology from 2006 to 2008.
An ethnomusicologist, he was an expert on Brazilian music and the author of Music in Brazil (Oxford University Press). He published many articles on jazz improvisation and Brazilian traditional and popular music and was awarded Fulbright and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships for research in Brazil.
It was as he finished his degrees in jazz performance studies and music theory at UNT that he discovered his love for teaching, and he went on to earn a master’s and a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Columbia University, with a focus on Cuban and Brazilian music.
He taught at Western Illinois University before joining the faculty at UNT, and was known for his unwavering support of students and colleagues.
In 2019, he co-founded UNT’s Neurodiversity Initiative, which includes training, research, an employee resource group, and other programs and resources to support neurodivergent faculty, staff and students.
As a student at UNT, he was a member of the One O’Clock Lab Band, and he continued to perform in the DFW area, playing jazz on tenor saxophone and Irish traditional music on button accordion.
Survivors include his wife, Genene, also retired from UNT, and children Jack (TAMS '06), Peter and Gillian ('15, '18 M.Ed.).
A memorial service is scheduled at 11 a.m. May 7 at the First United Methodist Church in Denton, with a reception following off-site.
Memorials may be made to the John Murphy Scholarship Endowment for Jazz Studies online (in the "Area of Support," select "The John Murphy Scholarship Endowment for Jazz Studies") or by check — list "John Murphy Endowment" in the memo line and mail to University of North Texas; University Advancement, Gift Administration; 1155 Union Circle #311250; Denton, TX 76203.