Christopher Washburne

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Feb 2021

Overall, he's a great professor. He's VERY passionate about what he teaches and his enthusiasm really shows during his lectures. Sometimes I think he overextends himself in terms of connecting various historical events to the music/culture of a specific country, but overall he does a good job of introducing you to the big names of each musical genre. Having completed the course, I felt I learned a lot about music in general, and the various genres addressed by this class. What really irritated me about this instructor however is how he tries very hard to act like a "woke hipster", probably because he's a white man who is talking about musical artists who are predominantly black. It's incredibly "cringe" to watch and I wish he would just stop, but it persisted throughout the entire semester. In terms of the actual grade, this class is extremely easy. There are three concert reports that are 3 pages each. As long as you reference the terms he brings up in class and the readings, you'll do fine. There is a final project that is due at the end of the class and he gives you a lot of freedom to do whatever you want. The final exam was commenting on two contemporary music videos and was probably the easiest final I've ever taken. He also has you do seemingly ridiculous things like cook Caribbean food and take a dance lesson, all of which are easy to do. Take this course if you want a very easy global core.

Dec 2020

This class could be fantastic if it wasn't taught by a white professor from Ohio who happened to write one book on salsa. Oh wait, excuse me 2- he just released a second one this year on Latin jazz. I'm surprised he did not announce that in class as many classes felt like just trips down memory lane for him and bragging rights of working with Tito Puente & Celia Cruz. Don't get me wrong, if this class was just called "Salsa" it would be brilliant!! FIVE STARS! But it's not. It's meant to explore the many genres of the Caribbean but he failed to equally or fairly do this. We spent two classes on Soca, barely scratching the surface, and 2 classes on Reggae while the rest was largely teachings on Salsa and his adventures as a professional trombonist. I would say if you want an easy grade to fulfill your global core requirement, go for this class. If you can handle him saying "milieu" every five seconds and dramatically emphasizing African roots or influences in every Caribbean genre to protect himself from being called out for not being "woke", props to you. But I would warn you that you are about to learn a very lopsided and sometimes uncomfortable history of the Caribbean shaped by a white man. Examples: - He played this extremely offensive song called "El Africano" AFTER saying how in real life he has now decided to stop playing it due to BLM but then proceeds to play it in its entirety to 222 people. When pushed to provide an explanation for playing this offensive song, he replied with "Good question, why am I teaching you this?" making the class do the labor of understanding his poor decision making to include insensitive music rather than him taking responsibility for being hypocritical. - He played "Rum & Coca Cola" by the Andrews Sisters as one of the few songs we heard from Calypso. This song is a racist caricature sung by three white American women. - He centers the conversation about Haiti entirely around voodoo (a common but ill-informed American approach to "understanding" Haiti), exoticizing and religiously fetishizing Haiti's musical genres. TLDR; Take this class because it's easy but listen to the lectures with a HUGE MOUND of salt because the non-Caribbean professor doesn't know anything about Caribbean culture after salsa. This class will introduce you to a small portion of great Caribbean songs but will provide misleading or false information about the history of its genres (sans Salsa)

Dec 2017

Best class I took at Columbia. Learned so much about Jazz and picked up a new passion. Professor Washburne should have a gold nugget.

Jan 2014

Professor Washburne is probably the coolest person on the planet. He previously played trombone with a lot of the salsa greats in NYC and on South American tours. He's now head of the jazz studies department, and he still plays with different salsa groups, other Columbia profs, and his own band, S.Y.O.T.O.S. (See You on the Other Side). Be thankful if you are lucky enough to take this class from him. The course is fun and the material is engaging. Whatever you do, don't come to class and sit on Facebook or watch Youtube videos. Listen to what the man is saying. His stories are intense and personal, and what's more is his passion for relaying his interests and experiences to his students. It helps to have an appreciation for Caribbean musics, I admit I probably wouldn't listen to every genre explored in this class recreationally. But the point is that to understand modern hip-hop, reggaeton, and reggae, you need to have the background of the earlier colonial music styles. Each lecture consists of the hypnotic voice of Washburne, paired with musical examples from each genre explored. The course covers musics of Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Nov 2013

More than 350 people were already registered for this class when I was picking my fall classes; of course it seemed like a bad choice! "What can I learn when there are this many people in a classroom?", I thought to myself. But I went with it at my adviser's recommendation and because it was the only one that fit my schedule. Holy shit, what a class. Christopher Washburne is a hell of an entertaining instructor. When he starts telling his stories all 350 students are dead-silent; and this is probably the most important part of being an lecturer. If you can't be entertaining, you simply won't get your message across. Prof. Washburne knows how to get his message across. He's extremely passionate about Caribbean music and Salsa in particular, and this makes for delightful lectures. The class follows a format that approximately covers one caribbean country a week. Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica are the big ones and might take longer to go through, but there are many others too. You not only learn about the music per se but all aspects that revolve around it: social, political, economical, etc. Essentially, this allows you to appreciate not only *how* the music sounds but *why* it sounds the way it does. With 3/4 of the semester in, I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite classes ever. Even if you, like me, aren't interested in Caribbean music at all, I highly recommend you take it.

Jan 2012

Washburne is one of the best professors that I have had while in college. He is excited about the material that he is teaching and it clearly shows during his lectures.The class lectures are extremely diverse and he covers many different musicians from the earliest origins in blues and ragtime to modern day jazz musicians. He is extremely accessible during class and tries to learn all of his students' names. Additionally, he is very lax in terms of grading and gives plenty of extra credit opportunities! I highly recommend taking this class music major or not. He makes the class easily understandable to those who do not have musical background.

Dec 2011

Professor Washburne is the man. Such a cool dude. Least stressful class I've taken so far. So relaxing to listen to music for homework. If you are interested in Jazz at all, take it. Professor Washburne has very interesting stories about his life as a professional musician and his travels and also teaches the standard jazz narrative well. Very doable for nonmusicians. Copious amounts of extra credit. If you do the extra credit and make an effort on the concert reports, it's an easy A.

Jan 2009

Be warned that Washburne has a pretty big ego and likes to go off on tangents and talk about his encounters with famous people...a lot. That said, this is a good class, and Washburne is a very good lecturer (although theatrical at times). With Washburne you get the additional benefit of the perspective of a working jazz musician. I came out of the class knowing a lot more than I did going in, and who can complain about listening to great jazz for homework? The readings are very interesting as well, though not entirely necessary. Exams weren't too brutal, but because of the size of the class grading is firm. If you're a musician (especially a jazz musician), this class is an absolute breeze - unless you take Washburne up on his offer of doing a final project instead of the three concert reports the rest of the class has to do (you still have to go to the concerts, but only need to hand in one page). Stick with the concert reports.

Jul 2005

Far be it from me to disparage this man. He's an exciting lecturer, who cares deeply about the music. Being in a class with him is a joy, as he is a showman when it comes to lecturing. He is able to present the information, but he has fun with it as everyone in the class does too. All the previous reviews say this. I feel it's true, so moving on... The warning I will give is this: the man does not care at all about the students. He really does not care about you at all. If you go to his office hours, he will answer emails while you are talking to him. In person, he is as cold as he is warm in his lectures. Not mean, not nasty. Just cold. Does this mean he's a bad person, or that you should not take his classes? ABSOLUTELY NOT. The classes remain some of the best classes at Columbia. However, I just need to add this little warning for anyone going into class, that there is a distinction to be made between him in class and him in person.

Jun 2005

by far the best class I have taken!! I am NOT a music major and I really enjoyed this class. Washburne is an engaging professor and really inspiring. Class is great- he always has interesting stories to tell about celebrities and jazz musicians. Studying for the midterm and final takes longer than you expect but its not hard and its fair. He practically tells you the essay questions beforehand. Also, if you dont know any music, like i didnt, study in advance- listen to the music a few days before the midterm/final to get acclimated. TAKE THIS CLASS TAKE THIS CLASS TAKE THIS CLASS- best to take it with friend because studying will be easier and going to jazz performances will be more fun.

May 2005

I don't hate Washburne, but feel that all these raves are a bit misleading. I took the class because it sounded interesting. It had its moments, but I found that if you don't have a deep passion for jazz, you might find yourself annoyed with Washburne's somewhat arrogant enthusiasm. He's one of those professors that has developed a cult following, which, if you're not part of it, gets to you after a while. If you like the guy, I guess, you can get past his habit of repeating everything about 4 times and the way he self promotes his band in class. I ended up sneaking out of lectures half the time, and paying for it on the exams. Others seemed to have a better experience than I did, but I'd recommend sitting in a few lectures before registering, because he's not for everyone.

May 2005

If you want to remember your academic experience fondly, then all you need to do is take a class with Professor Washburne. He is the kind of teacher who normally exists only in fantasy. He is brilliant, sweet, hilarious, passionate, and, maybe best of all, extremely interested in his students. Whether you are a jazz fanatic or novice, you will leave his class with both a strong interest in and understanding of the music.

May 2004

I was expecting this course to be a purely musicological course on jazz but I was very happy to learn some social history as well. As everyone else has said, Washburne is really funny and thorough at the same time. He brings in a variety of different perspectives on jazz and is very responsive to students' input (remarkable in a lecture of 200 people!) You get to listen to examples of what he's talking about in class, and he stops the music frequently to explain the importance of what you just heard. You do not need a musical background to do well in this class, and you certainly don't need to be a music major, although it helps to have taken Music Hum. I would recommend this class highly.

May 2004

I would encourage anyone to take this class. I loved it. I would list it as one of my top five best classes at the university; as a major, it was definitely the best one in the music department. Yes, it is an elective, and non-majors can take it, so it doesn't cater to hardcore music theorists or historical musicologists. However, the music is fun and fabulous, and Washburne delivers interesting and funny lectures. Furthermore, the most important thing I took away from this class was a newfound appreciation for Caribbean cultures. I even learned to salsa dance!

May 2004

Thus far, the best class I have taken at Columbia/Barnard. Everyone should take this class. Prof Washburne is funny, laid back, sincere, an extremely talented, rare professor. I think what I liked most about him was how sincere he was to us, and how much he loved the material. The class was 150+, but he made it feel like we were just all hanging out. His lecture style was never aloof or boring, but as though he was sharing what he loved with a few friends. He is an extremely talented musician, as well (has his own band, used to play for Tito Puente). Even if you don't like music, or jazz (or don't think you do), take it anyway.

Jan 2004

Washburne is highly overrated. While it's amusing to have a professor throw "cool" words into his lectures, his simplisitic understanding of the history of the Caribbean is painful. Washburne makes highly generalized statements without any accurate historical information to back them up. Granted, he is passionate about music (go hear him at Smoke- he's wonderful) but passion can only keep a student interested for so long. Unlike other classes at Columbia, which sometimes have an overly academic feel to them, there is no scholarly element to this class at all. I learned close to nothing and was also bored. Washburne should keep his evening job as a musician.

Apr 2003

Washburne is an engaging and entertaining lecturer. If you know nothing about jazz, this class will introduce and educate you about its history, its major figures, and its evolution. If you know something about jazz, this class will be an enormously easy 'A' and you will learn things here and there that you didn't know. The listening material is fantastic and the grading is done by competent and intelligent TAs. I highly recommend this course.

Apr 2003

Not like he needs any more praise, and naturally anything described as great is bound to build expectations and disappoint, I nevertheless feel the need to shower praise where it's due. This course is amazing. I have been heartbreakingly disappointed with nearly every one of my classes at Columbia over the past 3 years, even to the point where I left school. This class makes me glad I came back. The professor is engaging and passionate and provocative and the subject matter is really genuinely interesting. But I can still imagine a professor making jazz boring. Prof. Washburne excites students about jazz and music in general, and even incorporates larger issues such as art/music's role in society, racism, social/political context, and gender issues beautifully. He is truly a fabulous professor. Not to mention the TA's, who are accessible, funny, informative, and fair. This course is wholly fulfilling - the subject matter, the professor/TA's, the books, the concerts, everything. Kids aren't skipping his late-afternoon springtime classes - doesn't that say something? Can Columbia please hire profs based on their teaching ability as *well* as their accomplishments outside of the classroom? Instead of just the latter? Prof. Washburne does both; he is a figure in the jazz scene in the city as well. He is truly a great asset to Columbia. Don't miss this class!

Jan 2003

Phenomenal teacher!!!! Extraordinary. His enthusiasm and the great music make it worthwhile 9am class. I strongly recommend this class to anyone, irregardless of your interest in music. He really is a Columbia gem. Attending lecture is a must, since exams are based on material taught in class (but if you pay attention then the exams are easy). Theres no need to do the reading except that the book is very clear and fun to read-I ended up doing all the readings on the syllabus.

Nov 2002

This review is intended for advanced music majors, so I don't mean to offend everyone else who loves Washburne. He is one of the most popular professors at Columbia, and he has a sort of cult following among music majors who don't know much about jazz but do realize that it's some of the best music out there. And he's okay as far as teaching a basic introductory survey of jazz to people who know nothing about it. But for someone who already knows a lot about music, his classes (I've taken several) are very elementary. If you've even heard of Eric Dolphy, then V2016 will be WAY too easy for you and you'll get frustrated with Washburne's factual errors. If you're a music major who just wants an easy A, then this is fine if you can sit through it.

May 2002

All of the other reviews seem extremely exaggerated. Washburne is good in that he is a fairly enthusiastic lecturer. Also, he knows a fair amount about music itself; he was good at explaining basic musical concepts. However, there were several downsides to his class. He presented a simplistic view of history; he often just repeated truisms to explain historical periods. He told several stories, that while amusing, simply weren't true. For instance, his description of how Berlioz came to compose the Symphony Fantastique was just totally wrong. What's more, the correct version is in the textbook. Another example is he presented a theory of the origins of Beethoven's deafness as fact; nobody is actually sure why Beethoven went deaf. This led me to wonder whether other implausible sounding stories he told both about his personal experience and about the lives of composers were also untrue. Also, he really didn't challenge the class very much, it could have been taught at a much higher level. While I did learn a fair amount about music, I felt like I could have learned a lot more. Far too often, Washburne seemed willing to simplify things rather than deal with a more complex, but more accurate version of reality. On the whole, a decent, but not terrific professor.

May 2002

If you don't take this class before you graduate they should strip away your ivy. Washburne is unbelievable. His lecturing is so engaging that i would often find myself checking the time and wishing i had double period washburne. Additionally, the music that we listened to was amazing (some might say orgasmic). I never loved jazz before this class, but I am now addictted to the genre (i just bought 5 jazz CDs and can't tear myself away from the jazz pieces that are posted for the class). You will leave this course with a comprehensive understanding of the musical and cultural progression of jazz from its inception through today. TAKE THIS CLASS!! TAKE THIS CLASS!! TAKE THIS CLASS!! a funny and passionate teacher, great material, a ticket to explore the city and its music scene-this class has got it all. Put it this way, everyone that I spoke to was neary depressed when the last class ended. If you can't fit it into your schedule then stay another semester.

Apr 2002

Professor Washburne is one of the best professors I've ever had at Columbia. He's humorous, approachable, and interesting. He's obviously knowledgeable, and I learned more in that class than I have in most classes at Columbia. His lectures are interesting and informative--when he lectures, he tells a story; I never fall asleep in that class. I know much more than just music history; I know now the personal lives of the musicians, the politics behind the music, and so on. He's an excellent teacher.

Dec 2001

This guy is probably one of the better professors that you'll ever have. His knowledge and background with the music that is studied (He's played with Tito Puente, Mark Anthony, Whitney Houston, etc etc), is extensive and his feel for the music is great. Although the course is lecture based and can be a little boring at times, his humor and stories about his experiences lighten things up. Of course, you get to listen to music of the Caribbean styles, and get to see how they influence the music we all listen to today. He really wants you to learn and appreciate the music rather than just cram for tests and go to concerts just for the assignment.

Aug 2001

Coolest professor at Columbia. Maybe even in the Ivy League. Maybe even in the world. Jazz was a really fun class and Latin music's his specialty, so take both jazz and salsa, socca and reggae with him. You will not regret it. However, a lot of people take the class because they see it as an effortless A. But you need to go to class, because (as every other reviewer has said), the tests are entirely based on lectures. Don't even bother to buy the textbooks.

Aug 2001

I would take organic chemistry if Professor Washburne were teaching it. The class is a lot of fun and you learn a lot. He makes you understand jazz both from a musical perspective and from a historical and sociological point of view. Textbooks are completely useless-- his lectures make up the midterm and final. Know the stuff and you'll get an A. But let me reiterate: Washburne is FANTASTIC. Take anything he offers.

May 2001

WOW. The greatest professor I've ever had...knows everything there is to know about jazz, has fascinating stories from years in the business, hilarious, brilliant, passionate, engaging, etc., etc., etc. Take this class now. Take any class this man offers. (And he's a hell of a trombonist to boot!)

Apr 2001

If there is one professor who you have to take a class with, it's Professor Washburne. His involvement in the jazz music world brings a level of enjoyment that can't be matched. He loves what he does, and he loves what he teaches... and he makes you love it, too. Make sure you go to class, though... the textbooks are close to worthless, as the midterm and final are based entirely on lecture material.

Jan 2000

Washburne is a fun professor despite his cynicism. The tests are mostly lecture based, meaning you need to go to class if you want a decent grade. This is not a problem when covering 20th c. Cuban and Puerto Rican music, or the various other aspects of Caribbean music which Washburne happens to really enjoy and be personally involved in (he's a performing musician). He'll spice it up with stories from his extensive experience working with the movers and shakers in the modern Latin music scene. At other times, however, he lectures straight from the textbook, and it can be painful. The workload is fairly substantial, at least for an intro level course.

Jan 2000

Professor Washburne is an amazing professor (and i have the biggest crush on him). He has such a wealth of knowledge in his field (specifically, jazz and salsa) and so he brings a lot to the class. Students enjoy his candid, yet cynical, personality and his sense of humor. The work takes time, but you really get out of it everything you put in. This class is appropriate even if you are not a music major (i'm not) but Music Hum is a prereq. There isn't any regular homework, but I would recommend attending class often (tests are based a lot on lectures).