Jazz got me through college. Not performing jazz, listening to it. It was the background of my life in pharmacy school.
Having a backdrop of music has always been comforting to me. When alone in a room, music helps fill the space. Vocals are distracting. When I was in high school, I could not study with other voices in the room; but silent stillness was worse. I resorted to whatever my parents had lying around the house and found myself in the company of movie soundtracks and Mantovani. Then, in 1969, the year before I graduated, Blood, Sweat, and Tears released their album of the same name. Their cover of "God Bless the Child" was, for me, a Damascus road experience with music. Although it included vocals, it introduced me to jazz and I immediately began the search for more instrumentals in the genre.
Enter Tony Danna. Tony was a fraternity brother in pharmacy school and he was also a drummer. He introduced me to the music of Dave Brubeck whose hit, "Take Five" had already achieved classic status. As the years rolled by, instrumental jazz found a permanent place in my music library and I've even included vocals for when I'm not focused on something else and can pay attention to the lyrics.
In the '60s and '70s high schools and colleges called their smaller versions of the concert bands "pep bands," "stage bands," "dance bands," and other more politically correct monikers since "jazz" wasn't a widely accepted label. Jimmy Buffett was right on target for that era with his lyric that "only jazz musicians were smoking marijuana." Now, it's no big deal, and quite a few bands are know as "jazz ensembles" and many are strongly influenced by the big bands of the '40s and the Tonight Show Band of later years with Doc Severinsen.