Of the 32 formal concerts in the Library of Congress 2009-2010 season only two or three are jazz-related. Does this say something about the nation’s commitment to jazz, our “rare and valuable national American treasure”?
Classically trained, with commissions from prestigious ensembles and institutions, the three are recognized for a command of technique and expression across musical cultures, and for their strong influence on musicians and composers of their generation.
(T)he Library’s mission includes a strong mandate to collect, preserve and present all genres of American music, including music theater, pop, folk, and rock. In addition to chamber music, the traditional focus of the series, we present many of these genres each season, with some represented more than others in a given season depending on funding. For example we can occasionally offer events on music theater like our concerts of Sondheim and Bernstein, due to a specific endowment to support this. Regrettably, there is as yet no specific endowment–privately donated money–dedicated to jazz. Occasionally we receive a gift to support one or more concerts or a specific project. If you happen to know if any generous jazz-loving patrons, please let me know and we’ll pursue them!
(T)he Library’s concerts are run from endowments established decades ago . . . all costs associated with the artists, fees, production, etc. are completely borne by the endowment funds, which have taken a huge hit from the economic situation. These endowments were primarily established in the ’20’s and ’30’s to support chamber music . . .At the moment, with sharp funding cutbacks, our concerts will include more string quartets and chamber ensembles, because those endowments are generally quite tied to specific genres, almost exclusively classical, sometimes stipulating a specific instrument or chamber format, because that’s what the patrons’ wills stipulated.
Got it — there’s no money for jazz. Come on, you generous, future-oriented American music advocates! Set up an endowment supporting more Library of Congress jazz, so in 2109 our descendants will celebrate the bi-centennials of Art Tatum, Ben Webster, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Jay McShann, Johnny Mercer, Lester Young, Lionel Hampton and Stuff Smith! Say, why can’t we earmark a dollar on our tax returns towards that goal, starting soon? Or as Jeremy Gerard of Bloomberg News suggests, levy a 1/2 of 1 per cent tax on commercial cultural industries to support the arts on a national scale.
Part I Library of Congress
Part II Smithsonian
Part III Kennedy Center