Sunday, January 07, 2007

Jazz; It's Everywhere

Sorry. The New York Times just keeps getting better so it's very hard for me to pass up passing along certain articles. If you're a political junkie you must read Frank Rich.

But because this is my education blog let's check out this article, Jazz Is Alive and Well. In the Classroom, Anyway. by Nate Chinen, New York Times.
N.E.A. Jazz in the Schools, an outreach administered by the National Endowment for the Arts and produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center, reached an estimated four million students last year. “This could be an enormously powerful force in terms of audience development,” the endowment’s chairman, Dana Gioia, said of the program, a Web-based high school curriculum designed to run as a weeklong lesson during Black History Month. “The training of musicians is only one half of the necessary support for a thriving jazz culture.”

Of course, exposure to jazz doesn’t ensure an embrace of it; the biggest onus is on the artists who maintain the state of the art. “We have incredibly talented young folks out here now, but they have to create a market for themselves,” said the saxophonist Jimmy Heath, who retired from full-time teaching at Queens College not quite a decade ago and was named an N.E.A. Jazz Master in 2003.

However counterintuitive it sounds, local action may be the best hope for the revitalization of the music’s audience. Thanks to these educational programs, jazz now exists in college towns and isolated high schools where no club scene has ever thrived. The implosion of the monolithic music industry has little effect on that network. In that sense, jazz has a shot at becoming a folk music again.

“What I’m hoping for the future of the music,” Mr. Pierce said, “is that the students who come to these schools go back to their communities, create their own scenes and develop their own audiences so the music can come back to some level, as it maybe once was. When you multiply all these individuals and all these institutions, maybe that can happen.”

It may already have started. “These kids coming out of high school are more advanced than they ever were before,” said Mr. Crook, “and it’s because of the people teaching them, graduates of programs like this one. They’re bringing it back to the culture.”

In that sense, the International Association for Jazz Education conference might be understood not as a collision of worlds but as a gathering of the tribes. And the most important thing that happens there isn’t a clinic or show or ceremony, or a negotiation on the expo floor. It’s what happens after, when the various jazz constituencies pack up their stuff and head home.
I know that jazz groups exist in Region 19 and certainly at UConn. Seems to me the the church basements and town hall auditoriums should start encouraging some local jazz performances to see what all the noise is about.

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