National Endowment for the Arts’ FY-12 budget eliminates a 30-year-old Jazz Masters Awards program, and special recognition with National Heritage Fellowships and Opera honors, in favor of Artist of the Year Awards available for the entire spectrum of performing artists (all forms of music and theater as one). Here’s the NEA’s statement, issued through a spokesperson, regarding its “modification of honorifics,” in response to some issues I alluded to yesterday, which seem sure to reverberate with diverse effects throughout the U.S.’s far-flung and various jazz communities.
In a statement from the NEA, issued through a spokesperson:
The NEA has a proud tradition of honoring master artists
in folk and traditional arts, jazz, and more recently, opera. With the Fiscal
Year 2012 appropriations request, the agency hopes to be able to extend these
honors and the accompanying support to the full range of American artists,
including dancers, theater artists, other musicians, film makers, and visual
While the NEA Jazz Masters, National Heritage
Fellowships, and Opera Honors will not continue as stand alone programs, the
NEA American Artists of the Year proposal will still honor jazz, folk and
traditional arts, and opera and will include them as part of a fuller spectrum
of American art forms and artists.
The NEA American Artists of the Year designations will
include fellowships for the recipients, just as the various honors programs
have done in the past. In addition to honoring artists for their lifetime
achievements, the NEA American Artists of the Year proposal hopes to also
acknowledge the contributions that some artists are making while still in the
middle of their careers.
It is important to note that the process is already
underway for the 2012 Jazz Masters (which we expect to present at an awards
concert and ceremony in January 2012), as well as for the 2011 National
Heritage Fellowships and Opera Honors (which will be presented at two
ceremonies this coming fall).
Moving forward, it simply seemed correct to extend the
NEA’s honoring of American artists to as full a spectrum as possible.
NEA’s statement reinforces information in my prior blog posting, and
I’m committed to reporting this change straightforwardly, assuming there
may be benefits to such a modification of policy. Of course, in this blog I reserve the right to analyze it, too. In full disclosure: As president of the Jazz Journalists Association (and long ago as an individual) I’ve
had and may again have proposals for project support before NEA’s programs. This blog’s comments section a platform for
some start of a discussion about an end (or transformation?) of the Jazz Masters program. Similar discussions are certainly happening elsewhere, regarding other musical genres; research of the larger performing arts spectrum’s reactions is called for.