Bob MacDonald started the jazz program at L.A. City College in the late 1940’s. That band became it’s first college dance band officially. The Band in 51/52 won Metronome Magazine’s Contest for The Best Band and was rewarded by being recorded Capital Records. He was a master teacher. His mentor was Louie Armstrong and he wrote for Buddy Berigan. Bob was mild mannered and very respected among his students and all the L.A. local professional musicians . “With the establishment of its Commercial Music curriculum in 1946, LA City College became the first college in the nation to offer a degree in jazz. Indeed, numerous important jazz musicians attended LA City College, including Chet Baker, Irving Bush, Eric Dolphy, Bob Florence, Herb Geller, Jerry Goldsmith, Les McCann, Charlie Mingus, Lennie Niehaus, Tommy Oliver, Jack Sheldon, Julius Wechter and Hal Owen.
Many talented musicians have studied at Los Angeles City College, including: David Alpert, musician/co- owner of A&M Records, Roy Ayers, jazz musician, Chet Baker, jazz musician, Robert Bradley, blues musician, Irving Bush, jazz musician, Eric Dolphy, jazz musician, Jean Fenn, Metropolitan Opera Company, Bob Florence, jazz musician/composer, Don Friedman, jazz pianist, Herb Geller, jazz musician, Jerry Goldsmith, composer, Academy Award® recipient, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriters, M.C. Hammer, R&B musician, Grammy® recipient, Howard Leese, rock musician and producer, George London, opera star/ Director of the Kennedy Center, Lebo M, composer, Les McCann, jazz pianist/singer, Charlie Mingus, jazz musician, Lennie Niehaus, jazz musician, Odetta, folk singer, Tommy Oliver, jazz musician, Hal Owen, jazz musician, Dianne Reeves, jazz singer, Grammy® recipient, Robin Russell, drummer – member of New Birth/Nite-Liters, Jack Sheldon, jazz musician, Leonard Slatkin, conductor, Ed Thigpen, jazz musician, Russ Titelman, music producer, Grammy® recipient, songwriter, John Williams, Academy Award®–winning composer, and La Monte Young, composer.
In this quote from noted jazz composer, Bob Florence, former student of Bob McDonald stated: “I had been heading toward becoming a concert pianist. I had been playing piano since I was 4, and had been performing concerts since age 7 or 8, though I also listened to jazz and pop music.” Then at L. A. City College, Florence needed additional units and serendipitously enrolled in a class in orchestration and arranging from Bob MacDonald, a noted Southern California music instructor who later directed the jazz program at Valley College in Van Nuys. To his surprise, Florence found that he had an affinity for jazz- based composition. “I discovered that writing was really fun,” Florence recalled. “There was a band at L. A. C. C., and I could hear my music played, and it was really rewarding. Later, I was able to learn by trial and error, hearing a band play my charts at the musicians union. So I just kept going.”