Jazz educators go south

Another victim of global economics? Or of flawed leadership? The 40-year-old International Association for Jazz Education has announced its bankruptcy, following an ill-attended conference in Toronto and unexpected departures by its executive director and president. “Industry of jazz” players are shocked, shocked! 

As reported by my friend Paul de Barros, jazz critic of the Seattle Times, the annual IAJE conference, which over the past decade has served as an unrivaled meeting ground for jazz-oriented musicians, students, educators, academic institutions, instrument manufacturers, record companies, festival producers, music and book publishers, print journalists, broadcasters and bloggers will not take place as planned in Seattle in January 2009, will not publish its quarterly journal or follow up on current programs  – – in fact will disband entirely, leaving some 8,000 members without platform or representation in a world increasingly marginalizing its mission.

The promotion of jazz music, which has typically been a hit-or-miss venture dependent on individual initiative around localized projects, will again (still) be without a widely rooted, non-commercial umbrella organization based in the U.S., a la the Country Music Association, Chamber Music America, the Poetry Foundation or for that matter the Jazz Journalists Association. The Jazz Alliance International, a consortium originally meant to include fans, musicians, record labels, producer-presenters and magazine publishers, was folded into IAJE two years ago, and has, without formal announcement, apparently abandoned its activities.

As usual, the survival of jazz as a unique art-and-entertainment will be up to those players and listeners (educators and students included) who most live it and love it. The IAJE may fall, but jazz will carry on. That fact runs counter to the disturbing spin of IAJE’s attorney Alan Bergman (also prominent in the Jazz Alliance International and the rights deals by Blue Note Records for historic albums such as the heralded Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall), who said:

“A bunch of jazz musicians formed this organization and it grew into a multimillion-dollar operation with a huge convention and a big staff and big journal, but it was still run by a volunteer board elected by the membership that met twice a year.”

Don’t blame the musicians — IAJE ex-executive director Bill McFarlin and his board were jazz teachers and administrators, not creators. American jazz musicians long ago learned to work cheap and act wily; no musician-run organization (like the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians or even the American Federation of Musicians) has ever racked up a million-dollar deficit from its operations. Such a group would be both unlikely to bite off so much more than they could chew and unable to convince anyone to extend them such credit anyway. No, I think to know how the IAJE debacle happened, we ought to press its suits.

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  1. says

    “All structures are unstable.” Eckhart Tolle
    HM: Yes, Zen Bret, yet all stables are more stable than no stables.
    May I use this space to correct a mis-statment I made on the original posting: Lois Gilbert of JazzCorner and the Jazz Alliance International (JAI) has written me to say that attorney Alan Bergman was not associated with the JAI, and that the JAI only had membership dues from Board members (not membership offered to the public, as I perhaps faultily remember from an early JAI outreach campaign).