Jazz Update

Volume CIII, No. 5May, 2003

Natasha Jackson


The 30th annual International Association of Jazz Education (IAJE) conference was held in Toronto on Jan. 8-11. The weather was seasonably cold and the conference arranged for shuttles between the conference hall and the Royal York, the two primary venues where workshops and performances took place. As is the case for most cities hosting the IAJE conference, local clubs and radio stations incorporated the conference events into their programming schedules so that the weekend was chock-full of good music. The conference is held each January and is considered the largest annual gathering of members of the global jazz community.

This was the third year that Local 802 set up a “Justice for Jazz Artists” booth in the exhibit hall. We provide information about the efforts of the union to win benefits for jazz musicians, especially those working as music educators.

This year the conference theme was “Jazz – Crossing All Borders” and, compared to previous years, the conference had a more international flavor, focusing on jazz from countries stretching from Europe to Latin America.

Among the highlights of the conference was the debut of the African American Jazz Caucus’ Historic Black College and University All-Star Jazz Ensemble which consisted of music students selected from auditions at the various historically black college and universities. The group itself was an inspiration to watch, as were the featured performances by trumpeter Jimmy Owens and drummer Ed Thigpen.

Another conference highlight was a ceremony for saxophonist Jimmy Heath, drummer Elvin Jones and vocalist Abbey Lincoln who were each granted American Jazz Masters Awards.

The IAJE gala, the opening concert and dinner event, featured Oscar Peterson, who was also awarded the IAJE President’s Award.

Next year’s conference will be held in New York City.


In 2000, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) commissioned a study of jazz musicians in New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and Detroit. The study, “Changing the Beat – A Study of the Worklife of Jazz Musicians,” was conducted by the Research Center for Arts and Culture at Teachers College, Columbia University.

The project was developed with Dr. Billy Taylor as well as a focus group of artists, managers and educators.

Congress has named jazz a national treasure. But for musicians who continue this great American tradition, the NEA sought to understand more about their lifestyles. The two key objectives were understanding better the environment for jazz in each of the study cities and developing a detailed assessment of needs.

Ultimately the study hopes to address the longstanding question of “How can we best support the continuing growth and development of jazz and the musicians who create it?”

Although an executive summary has been published with some preliminary findings, the final reports will not be available until later this spring.

Click here for more information.


The union recently renewed its agreement covering musicians at the Apollo. The new two-year contract increases wages by 25 percent over the life of the contract. Pension remains at 7 percent. All regular members will continue to be guaranteed Plan A.