"Doc" the Jazz Legend: Jazz Professor Approaches 40 Years Teaching at University

The Texas Story Project.

Born a Texan, Dr. John M. Rankin is well-known musician with many prestigious achievements in both the classical and jazz worlds of music, playing with musicians such as Rufus Reed, Ella Fitzgerald, Ted Weems, and many more.

Dr. John M. Rankin earned his Bachelor's of Music composition as well as his Master’s degree of trumpet performance at the Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Dr. Rankin is a performer with many notable groups such as his jazz quartet, The San Antonio Brass, a guest performer with The San Antonio Symphony (conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing). Dr. Rankin today is a professor of jazz studies at St. Mary’s University, where he accepted the teaching position as part of a federal grant to develop the music department and its ensembles in 1980. Dr. John M. Rankin, or known to many of his colleagues and students as “Doc,” has been a devoted teacher for over thirty nine years now and is approaching his 40th year now at St Mary’s University in 2020.

After moving to San Antonio and starting a family, Dr. John Rankin was “surprised at the level of music instruction” the university had established at the time, he described St. Mary’s as being very limited to the “old school norms.” Dr. Rankin wanted to pursue a teaching program that “addresses the needs of individual students,” so with such a small university to work at, he found it perfect to do so. Over many years and hard work, Dr John Rankin changed music at St. Mary’s forever, such as adding a music production studio, where both music majors and non majors could come learn about producing music as well as the art of mixing and editing.

Teaching music appreciation courses as well as directing both the Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Combos at St Mary’s University, Dr. Rankin works hard to changes the lives of students forever through the work of his teaching. “My students and colleagues are the reason I stay, they inspire me to grow as a musician and person,” are Dr Rankin’s own words for his purpose and the sole reason for staying at St. Mary’s. He is also the director for the Fiesta Jazz festival at St. Mary’s and has brought in world-renowned artists and groups such as The John Patitucci Trio, Rufus Reed, Billy Childs, Wayne Bergeron, Maynard Ferguson and a plethora of other world class musicians. Many of his current and former students describe Dr. Rankin as a “hilarious, stand-up kind of guy”, who is “passionate about what he teaches.” He is always looking for ways to improve not only himself, but the lives of his students and colleagues. It is through the hard work of Dr. Rankin and his outstanding colleagues, the seemingly never-ending persistence he has, and a unique personality that allows the St. Mary’s Department of music to gather such fine musicians for jazz and keep making history that will live in the hearts of everyone—all thanks to “Doc.”

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