A new hole in the safety net for jazz musicians: In an e-mail message sent February 18, Jazz Foundation of America executive director Wendy Oxenhorn reports:
Our magnificent E*TRADE Emergency Housing Fund has allowed us to pay rents and mortgages all these years when elderly musicians fell ill, and when Katrina struck. Because of this fund we have never lost anyone to homelessness or eviction in the past 8 years! What ETRADE did for us all these years was amazing but we have just been told that they can no longer support our program going forward. Without their contribution our Emergency Fund is now at an all time low.
Housing is only a part of the JFA’s larger mission, which also includes pro bono health care, employment assistance, instrument provisions and jazz education. Despite the series of crisis facing jazz musicians and the jazz recording industry over the past eight years, the JFA has maintained a high profile and raised millions of dollars, spending very little on administration (it keeps small offices in the Musicians Union building in midtown Manhattan). Oxenhorn and Lilien have been joined by a not so small and still growing number of other exceptionally generous individuals — most notably Agnes Varis and a retinue of doctors associated with Englewood Hospital and Medical Center — to expand activities in the face of increasing need. In another paragraph of her email, Oxenhorn writes,
Donations are down by 50% and yet we have twice the number of musicians coming in for help. . . Maybe you can make a donation online, at www.jazzfoundation.org maybe you can get a ticket to our “Great Night In Harlem Concert this May 14th” it will be a tribute to folks like Etta James and the blues! You can get tickets by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.