Jazz Foundation, BMI and MPTF Partner for ‘Jazz in the Schools’ Program

Posted in News on April 3, 2002

The Jazz Foundation of America (JFA), BMI and the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) announce a partnership arrangement in support of the "Jazz in the Schools" program that will bolster the profile of live jazz performances throughout the New York City region during the Spring and Fall 2002 semesters. Over 50 public schools ranging from the elementary to high school levels will participate. Joe Lovano, Bertha Hope, Walter Booker, Melvin Sparks and Ben Riley will perform at the inaugural concert on Friday, April 12 at 2pm at PS 87 (160 W. 78th Street). This event is not open to the general public but will be recorded for future broadcast on WBGO FM Jazz 88.3.

The JFA's "Jazz in the Schools" program began last year when a grant allowed the JFA to book as many performances as possible in the New York City public schools during the month of April. In 10 days alone, 60 performances were secured, which generated $50,000 to the participating musicians and introduced upwards of 10,000 children to jazz.

Joe Lovano and his quartet perform at P.S. 87

States JFA Executive Director, Wendy Oxenhorn, "The children loved it. They danced, swayed and shouted to the music. They sent thank you letters and pictures to the musicians, asking them to come back. One child said, 'Thank you so much. I never heard jazz music before, but I have to tell you that you are the best jazz I ever heard.' The musicians, many of whom were older," states Oxenhorn, "called to ask when they could get more of these school gigs. They loved the children. They played during the daytime and did not have to travel late at night. They were paid decent wages for their performances and were able to pay their monthly expenses themselves."

BMI jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano (3rd, left) and members of his quartet are thrilled that the kids at PS 87 loved the concert. Seen here all smiles are bass player Walter Booker, pianist Bertha Hope, Lovano, Jazz Foundation of America Executive Director Wendy Atlas Oxenhorn, guitarist Melvin Sparks and drummer Ben Riley.

The Jazz Foundation of America is the first organization of its kind devoted to assisting jazz artists undergoing crisis. Unfortunately, irregular employment and lack of health benefits have been a common experience for jazz musicians. The JFA assists jazz artists in need, for example: by stopping evictions, preventing homelessness, paying rent arrears, providing emergency living expenses, offering substance abuse counseling, providing medical care through their partnership with Englewood Hospital & Medical Center's "Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund," Harlem Hospital and physician network.

BMI's Robbin Ahrold, Oxenhorn and Lovano

In 1987, Congress declared jazz to be a "valuable national treasure that bridges many cultural, religious and generation gaps," states BMI spokesman, Robbin Ahrold. "It is important to expose children to the essence of jazz in order for them to understand the impact that jazz has had on the country and in the world. One way of doing this is by organizing jazz concerts in schools. These performances are educational tools that provide performances, lectures and workshops."

Founded in 1940, BMI is an American performing rights organization that represents more than 300,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in all genres of music, including Art Blakey, Joanne Brackeen, John Coltrane, Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Dave Douglas, Roy Haynes, Stanley Jordan, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Sun Ra, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, among others.

Since 1988, the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop has provided a creative environment for today's jazz composers to explore new ideas and refine their skills. BMI also sponsors the Jazz Composers Competition at the Thelonious Monk Institute's annual International Jazz Competition.

The "Jazz in the Schools" program is made possible by a grant from the MPTF, which is funded by the recording industry and administered by Local #802 of the American Federation of Musicians. The MPTF is the largest sponsor of free, live musical programs in the world, with special emphasis on assisting music education programs in the schools.