Those Who Can, Teach

Jazz Education Conference Meets the Big Apple

Volume CIV, No. 3March, 2004

Natasha Jackson

The 31st annual International Association for Jazz Education Conference was held in New York on Jan. 21-24, with events centered in Midtown at both the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels — and, for the first time, a jam session at Local 802 (see pictures here).

This year’s much anticipated conference accommodated over 7,300 musicians, students, and teachers representing 40 countries. In years past, the conference location changed year to year, returning to the Big Apple about every three years. However, due to record-setting attendance, and support from both the mayor’s office and the Visitors and Convention Bureau, the IAJE conference has decided to increase the frequency of its visits.

“There is something about having the conference in New York City,” said Bill McFarlin, the executive director of the IAJE. He is pleased with the partnership that has been formed with the city and feels that this relationship will enable IAJE to raise awareness of and support for the New York jazz community year-round.

McFarlin said that besides increasing overall support for jazz he understands the need for job creation as well as audience development. When asked about better pay for musicians he expressed the opinion that jazz should be compensated in a way that reflects its value — just like Broadway, or other cultural presentations uniquely accessible in New York City.

On that note, McFarlin says he believes support for jazz is increasing in the city, and references vigorous networking and idea exchanging at this year’s conference as well as the opening of the Time Warner building at Columbus Circle, which will house the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

There are few gatherings of musicians with such a high concentration of talent and stature as the annual IAJE conference, especially when it is held in New York City, the entertainment center of the world.

The IAJE recently changed the “E” in its name — from “educators” to “education” — to reflect all aspects of jazz education instead of just jazz in the classroom. This new emphasis was reflected in the crowd, which consisted of noticeably more students, who were performing as well as attending clinics and workshops.

The conference schedule presents concurrent sessions for attendees with a variety of interests including a jazz industry track, teacher training track, research presentation, and performance.

Musicians and attendees had an opportunity to hear high school and university jazz bands from around the world, and listen to jazz industry professionals discuss current issues affecting musicians and trends in business.

Performers included David Sanchez, Michel Camilo, Bobby Watson, Maria Schneider, Jason Moran, Hubert Laws, Phil Woods, Mulgrew Miller, Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano, Joe Chambers, Cecil Bridgewater, Benny Powell, Bob Brookmeyer, Nicholas Payton and the Village Vanguard Orchestra.

Every year Local 802’s Jazz Advisory Committee (JAC), most of whom are jazz educators themselves, purchase an exhibit booth at the conference to promote 802’s Justice for Jazz Artists campaign and provide literature and union information.

“I see a great deal of potential in IAJE’s ability to affect the educational system,” said trumpeter and conference attendee Jimmy Owens. “For example, I would like to see an organization with this amount of power address issues of part-time educators/musicians receiving health and pension benefits for their teaching. We have this in schools in New York, but it needs to spread to other parts of the country and IAJE could assist.”

The primary goal of 802 participating in this conference is to increase union awareness and impart the idea of educators protecting their interests in a field that is currently composed of adjunct and part-time faculty who earn no health or pension benefits.

Jazz educators and music educators have won unionizing victories with Local 802 at the New School University — both in the New School’s famous Jazz and Contemporary Studies Program and also the New School’s Guitar Study Center. Local 802 also represents music teachers at Midori & Friends, the Early Ear, Music Outreach, and most recently, the Kaufman Center.

Because of our concrete wins in the field, Local 802 is able to provide real examples of how music educators can obtain a union contract at their places of employment.

Local 802’s Coordinating Advisory Committee approved funding for JAC members to staff the exhibit booth and to participate in activities at the conference to infuse the concept of unionization in jazz education.

This year Local 802 shared a booth with the Jazz Foundation of America, a nonprofit organization which provides emergency assistance, financial and otherwise, to jazz musicians.


In addition to having a booth at the conference, this year the Jazz Advisory Committee sponsored a jam session at the union in collaboration with the Jazz Foundation and the IAJE African American Jazz Caucus. The jam session was organized in an effort to provide a means for visiting musicians to become more familiar with the union.

Also, the JAC wanted to promote cooperation among jazz organizations and pulling together resources in an effort to create a better support system for all jazz musicians from students to veterans. Guests enjoyed food and good music from 8 p.m. until midnight.

Participants included pianist Junior Mance, trumpeter Jimmy Owens, saxophonist Sue Terry, trombonists Benny Powell and Wycliffe Gordon, drummers Grady Tate and Rudy Lawless, and bassist Bob Cranshaw, among others — as well as a number of vocalists and students.