The IAJE Conference: A Report

Volume CII, No. 3March, 2002

Natasha Jackson

Local 802’s Justice for Jazz Artists campaign was an exhibitor in this year’s International Association of Jazz Educators Conference, held in Long Beach, Calif., from Jan. 9 through 12. The conference attracts thousands of educators and fans, and provides close to a thousand booths where exhibitors offer wares representing all aspects of the jazz industry.

The American Federation of Musicians coordinated with the officers of three Southern California local unions – Tracy Wells, President of Local 353 (Long Beach), David Schubach, Vice-President of Local 47 (Los Angeles), and Jay Amoss, President of Local 7 (Santa Ana) – to present booths in the exhibit hall. The Federation’s New York office was represented by Stanton Davis, Musicians Performance Trust Fund Liaison. Richard Gabriel, Special Assistant to the President, represented the Federation’s West Coast office.

802’s Justice for Jazz Artists campaign participated in order to promote the ideals of unionization among jazz music educators, many of whom are part-time adjunct faculty. The campaign wanted to offer an example of successful organizing in this field, with the recent negotiation of 802’s second collective bargaining agreement covering part-time faculty in the New School University’s Jazz and Contemporary Music Program.

Since the conference focuses on jazz education, many of the workshops addressed new techniques and issues pertaining to musical instruction. Research presentations and panel discussions were also offered, exploring such topics as cultural influences in jazz and trends in the industry and the media.

I especially enjoyed the presentation in which Downbeat conducted, live, the famous “blindfold test,” in which a chosen musician tries to identify the title and entire personnel of a number of randomly-selected tunes. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard was tested this year. Not only were the selections varied and delightful, but his charisma and quick wit added another dimension to the concept of “live.” At several points he had the audience in stitches, as he expressed his opinions candidly and pointedly. He also vividly recalled his personal experiences with the musicians, describing particular recording dates and performances.

One highlight of the conference was the gala event hosted by Nancy Wilson, where IAJE President Ron McCurdy presented Quincy Jones with the IAJE President’s Award. Jones later made an unscheduled appearance and speech at the conference welcome concert. In addition to this, there were endless concerts and performances lasting well past midnight each day, as well as surprise collaborations and cameo appearances.

As well as performing, musicians were part of the audience for workshops and panel discussions, pointing up the fact that everyone was there for the same reason: to learn and share in their love for jazz.