Lilburn Fellowship 2017

I am pleased to be the recipient of the Douglas Lilburn Research Fellowship for 2017. My project is going to  investigate the Jazz Age in New Zealand and what the jazz of the jazz age was. This project expands on the Auckland Jazz Age project I’m also working on for the Auckland City Libraries Sir George Grey Researcher in Residence. You can follow my Jazz Age research by looking at the tags Lilburn research and Grey research and the category of NZ Jazz Age on both NZ Jazz and Jazz Historian After Hours. NZ Jazz will have the mostly musical posts and Jazz Historian will have the other posts.

Media Pack

Project Description

The 1920s were a period of musical, cultural, economic, and emotional turmoil around the world. However, in cultural histories of New Zealand much of this (excepting the economic issues) are glossed over. Reading many of these histories a reader might wonder if New Zealand even had jazz, let alone a Jazz Age. History after history delves into the precursors and makings of the Great Depression, and they frequently focus on rural rather than urban society. Contrary to popular belief, 1920s New Zealand had a flourishing, vibrant, urban landscape, with a wide and varied entertainment industry, and a burgeoning jazz scene.

Jazz provides a unique lens into New Zealand society during the 1920s. While we now think of jazz as being a musical genre, during the Jazz Age it was very much more than music. Jazz was music, but it was also dance, fashion, design (in the form of Art Déco then known as Style Moderne, or Jazz Moderne), emotions (such as ‘jazzy nerves’), a type of (usually disreputable) person, morality panics, and a fashionable buzzword attached to everything from hair products, to handkerchiefs, to cake.

The New Zealand response to ‘jazz’ in all its meanings is a model or microcosm of the way that New Zealanders, perceived, engaged with, and interpreted their entire post-World War One World. In particular, the emotional reactions to ‘jazz’ were a consequence of the changes to New Zealand society (technologies, entertainments, social mores) that were wrought by World War One. These reactions to jazz can tell us a great deal about New Zealand society during the 1920s and are at the core of my research and output.

This project investigates the jazz of the New Zealand Jazz Age. Although this investigation is primarily a music history, since jazz in the 1920s meant many different things to many people, and as a result, it crosses over into broader entertainment history and cultural and emotional history. In this project I will examine jazz in all its facets and how it fit into New Zealand society and culture, and how New Zealand society and culture reacted to and adopted jazz.


Aleisha Ward was one of the first graduates of the Bachelor of Music (Jazz Performance) at the University of Auckland. She holds a Masters of Arts degree in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers University (2006) and a PhD in Music from the University of Auckland where her thesis was on jazz in New Zealand 1920-1955. She is currently a freelance writer, editor, lecturer and tutor in music history and is the assistant editor (Australia/New Zealand) for She writes about jazz in New Zealand for a number of publications including and New Zealand Musician and on her own blog NZ Jazz. Aleisha is the 2016/2017 Auckland Libraries Sir George Grey Researcher in Residence investigating the jazz age in Auckland.

More information about my activities:

Please look at the Shameless Self-Promotion page here for publications (including a link to my PhD thesis), presentations, and media.


If you would like to contact me for an interview or further information please do so at:

Or leave a comment below and I’ll reply to you.

%d bloggers like this: