Brubeck’s Religious Journey

Brubeck’s Religious Journey

Dave Brubeck

The life of Dave Brubeck is an interesting story to study. He became well known as a jazz musician; however what his music expressed became more important to him than anything else. As he became more religious, his music was created to inspire Christianity upon others. Although he chose to follow Catholicism later in life, his experiences inspired his overall perspective on religion. Below is a brief look at his life and the Religious influences that may have shaped his life. To see a timeline of the events we believe helped influence his life click here.

Early life

Before Brubeck’s birth his Grandfather who was a Christian Minister moved to California to start a farming life for him and his family. Although his Grandfather was a minister Brubeck’s father Pete was brought up in a loosely religious family. Brubeck was born in 1920 in Concord California. Growing up on a farm Brubeck always admired the farm life and wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. But, his mother who is a piano teacher saw something special and had him continue to practice. Later, his family moved to a larger acre farm in Northern California. When Brubeck was ready to take over the family farm his mother insisted he went to school. Listening to his mother Brubeck enrolled into the College of the Pacific in Stockton, CA studying veterinary science.  

Early Career

Stemming from a somewhat religious family background,  and with heavy encouragement from his mother, Dave Brubeck enrolled in the College of the Pacific in 1939.  The college was founded by Methodists and upheld Christian principles, which could have potentially influenced Brubeck. Even though students did not have to be religious to be accepted, they were expected to recognize the spirit and purpose of the school, which was to develop personality and character.  His experience in the Army influenced the religious aspects in his later works.  Brubeck reevaluated his life and religion after suffering a nearly fatal diving accident in 1951.

Mid Career

In the mid 1960’s, Brubeck was very influenced by Christianity. More specifically, he wanted to influence others through his music. He worked to revolutionize the style of “church” music; by creating a different style of music that spoke to the general public. Through his music he was able to promote his religion to non-religious people. During this time in his career, he constantly experienced hate through racial segregation and war. All of which, continued his musical influence to speak (sing) of love for everyone to hear.

Late Career

After being commissioned by Ed Murray to write To Hope! A celebration, Dave felt like he had changed. He said that he hopes he had changed for the better and that any amount of time spent studying the Old and New testaments would heavily influence and change a person. Dave revealed in an interview that he could be considered a Catholic because he didn’t oppose anything that Catholicism presented. With these statements it could be safe to say that Dave was heavily influenced by religion late in his life and it did not define him, but improved him. His attitude towards life and the life of others shows that he respected every person equally and that could have been derived from the religious influences throughout his life. 


Over Brubeck’s life span, his music style shifted towards religion. Every aspect in his life- having a Christian Grandfather, going to a Methodist influence University, experiencing immorality during the war, being surrounded by segregation, studying the Bible- led him to Christianity. As he shifted religiously, he became more prominent in the Christian community and through his music, he was able to missionize to everyone.

Special Thanks

We would like to thank the Holt-Atherton Special Collections team at the University of the Pacific for allowing us access to the Dave Brubeck collection, and for their help in guiding our research.  We would also like to thank Dr. Schroeder for the help in directing the project.  One last thanks to the class for their input and questions about the project.

Works Cited

“American National Biography Online: Brubeck, Dave.” n.d. Accessed November 9, 2017.

Bulletin of the College of the Pacific. 1940. Vol. 32. College of the Pacific.

“Dave Brubeck.” 2017. Wikipedia. November 21, 2017.

Dietsche, Bob. 1978. “Brubeck Opens Up About Old Times.” Fresh Weekly, March 7, 1978. Special Collections. University of the Pacific.

Elliot, A. Gerald. 1967. “Brubeck Tells Us Why He Writes About Religious Music.” Special Collections. University of the Pacific.

Feather, Leonard. 1966. “Brubeck Planning Religious Works”. Special Collections. University of the Pacific.

Kaplow, Herbert. 1982. A Mass For The New Decade: Easter With Dave Brubeck Television Interview Broadcast by ABC TELEVISION NETWORK. Special Collections. University of the Pacific.

Khomina, Anna. n.d. “The Homestead Act 1862.”

Morner, Kathleen. 1968. “Sermon By Brubeck”. Special Collections. University of the Pacific.

“PBS: Rediscovering Dave Brubeck | With Hedrick Smith.” n.d. Accessed November 21, 2017.

“Pyramid Lake War | ONE.” n.d. Accessed December 6, 2017.

Sherwin, Michael. n.d. “Jazz Goes Back to Church: Dave Brubeck’s Religious Music.” August 4-11 2003.

“Sherwin-Jazz goes back to church.” n.d. Accessed November 9, 2017.

Smith, Warren Cole. n.d. “Family and Faith Energized Dave Brubeck – WORLD.” Accessed November 9, 2017.

Stewart, Zan. 1989. “Jazz Notes: Brubeck Comfortable After Heart Surgery; New Drummer Added to McCoy Tyner Trio,” February 8, 1989.

Sutton, Shan. 2007a. “Dave and Iola Brubeck on Dave’s World War II Experiences and His Army Band The Wolf Pack.” Brubeck Oral History Project, January.

Waggoman, Ann. 1967. “Brubeck Talks About Problems Of Mankind Prior To Concert”. Special Collections. University of the Pacific.

———. 2007b. “Dave Brubeck on His First Paying Gigs in Rural California.” Brubeck Oral History Project, January.

———. 2007c. “Dave Brubeck on Upon This Rock and Performing for Pope John Paul II’s Visit to San Francisco.” Brubeck Oral History Project, January.