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Jazz Education Network Conference 2015: Sharing The Gift Of Jazz

“The Jazz Education Network is dedicated to building the jazz arts community by advancing education, promoting performance, and developing new audiences.”

It’s a clear and concise mission statement, and the power behind it is a group of incredibly dedicated and hard-working people. My discussions with JEN founders and board members at the 6th annual conference in San Diego earlier this month had this theme: There’s still so much to be done, and we’re totally up for it.

Membership in JEN mainly consists of, as you might expect, high school and college-level jazz band instructors. But this organization is very aware that jazz education is not restricted to the classroom. Working musicians, presenters, promoters, journalists and broadcasters are all represented and their input welcomed on a number of levels.

So Much Conference

The sheer number of JEN conference activities was mind-boggling: 71 clinics/panel discussions, 30 research presentations (including “10 Years of Success: the KPLU School of Jazz Outreach Program,” presented by Brenda Goldstein-Young and myself), 2 jazz history films, 34 pro performances, 36 school/community band performances, 40 JENerations of Jazz festival performances and clinics. Many of the clinicians also go out into the community where the conference is being held to do workshops in the local schools.

Other events included committee meetings and special sessions, and a huge exhibit hall full of displays from music schools, university music programs, instrument makers, sheet music and instruction book publishers, a few jazz radio stations and every kind of musical gadget you can imagine. A gala fundraising dinner and nightly pro and student jam sessions added to the festive mood.

Most Inspiring Moments

Awards: Keynote speaker Herbie Hancock was honored with a LeJENd of Jazz Education award, as was trumpeter Bobby Shew. Conga master Poncho Sanchez received the LeJENd of Latin Jazz award. Congressman John Conyers could not attend, but he was presented with a Jazz Griot award for his relentless support of jazz, and he sent along a video of thanks.

The Kids Are Alright: We were surrounded by high school jazz instrumentalists and vocalists, performing, attending clinics, and really listening to each other. These young people are serious about jazz, and it was a delight to see and hear.

The Message

The art form of jazz is alive, well, growing and evolving. JEN intends to be at the forefront of jazz education, continuing research about jazz audiences and their preferences, and providing resources and support to those who teach, present and promote jazz. To quote from Herbie Hancock’s keynote address: “We are the shoulders that the next generation of jazz greats are standing on.”

Visit theJazz Education Networkwebsite for more photos and videos from this years conference, and to find out what you can do for jazz.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.