House Appropriations Committee to NEA: Keep Jazz Masters

images-1.jpegThe National Endowment for the Arts has been directed by the US House Appropriations Committee in its report to Interior house.jpeg to continue the American Jazz Masters Fellowships and dump its proposed American Artists of the Year honors. The report also supports continuation of the NEA’s National Heritage Fellowships program (but not its Opera Honors) and recommends a 2012 NEA budget $19.6 million less than it got in 2011, $11.2 million below what the NEA asked for.

“The Committee does not support the budget request proposal to eliminate the National Heritage Fellowship program and the American Jazz Masters Fellowship program,” reads the report (on page 106) published July 11. It goes on:

The National Heritage Fellowship program, which was created in 1982, has celebrated over 350 cultural leaders from 49 states and five U.S. territories, focusing national attention on the keepers of America’s deep and rich cultural heritage found in communities large and small, rural and urban. Similarly, the American Jazz Masters Fellowship, also created in 1982, has bestowed appropriate national recognition on a uniquely American art form Congress has proclaimed a national treasure. Accordingly, the Committee directs the NEA to continue these popular honorific fellowships in the same manner as it has in the past.
The Committee believes the proposal to establish a separate NEA American Artist of the Year honorific award is not warranted and could be perceived as an attempt to circumvent clear, long-established congressional guidelines prohibiting direct grant funding to individual artists.

Also in the report (starting on page 105 of the pdf), the Committee asserts its support for the “longstanding collaborative relationship between the NEA and the States [Arts Agencies],” funding state partnerships with $46 million, which includes a $10 million set-aside for rural communities.

The Committee lauds the Blue Stars Museums program that gives free museum admission to “all active duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day,” as well as what it calls “cost-effective, well-managed” initiatives with “broad geographic reach” (specifically, the Big Read, Challenge America and Shakespeare in American Communities) that extend the arts to under-served communities. Furthermore, it “views the NEA’s newest initiative — known as Our Town — as an economic development and revitalization proposal more properly aligned with the goals and objectives of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.” The report cites the Committee’s concern that Our Town funding would “gravitate states’ arts agencies to concentrate funds toward large urban centers with strong existing arts infrastructures at the expense of State Arts Agencies which are better positioned to reach underserved populations.”

While the Committee believes that the NEA is well-positioned to provide expertise to HUD and other Federal agencies on promoting the arts in large and small communities . . . as competition for Federal dollars grows, limited direct grant funding dollars with- in the NEA should be devoted to core programs with a proven record of success.”

Consequently, Our Towns gets $2 million, $3 million less than the NEA requested.

The total budget recommendation for the NEA is $135,000,000. The Committee recommends the same amount of support (and equal cuts from the 2011 budget level and the 2012 request) for the National Endowment of the Humanities. For comparison: the price of one F-35 Lightning !! fighter plane from Lockheed Martin is currently estimated at $156 million.
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  1. says

    Such typical government bs. They have been yanking around and f**king over the NEA
    for years. They protect the Jazz Masters Program only when negative publicity mandates it,
    and primarily because almost all of the recipients are old black men, key word being black,
    followed by men. If Jazz is America’s musical art form, how come so called jazz festivals
    feature virtually no jazz music these days, jazz radio is moribund, and jazz recordings count
    for less than three percent of all sales? Why do college jazz education/band programs churn
    out thousands of students, some of whom even have a measure of talent, with no place to
    to and play and no jobs to be had? The world has passed jazz by, as it requires intelligence
    and discernment. Jazz is just like all the other cast in cement art forms (ballet, chamber music,
    classical orchestra, opera) – looking back not forward.

    HM: This comment is loaded with mis-information and contradictions. 1) the Jazz Masters program is pc regarding diversity, including women as well as black and white men; 2) the Jazz Masters program is meant as a lifetime achievement honor, so by definition its recipients will be elders 3) There has been very little negative publicity — or ANY publicity — about the NEA’s move to end the Jazz Masters program 4) confusing sales and commercial position with the health and future of the art form is not productive in the discussion 5) if there are thousands of jazz students being churned out, they will certainly find someplace to play (maybe not for $, but maybe for $) — and the very fact that there are “thousands” speaks directly to the currency of the form, not its past 6) While many jazz festivals include non-jazz acts, there are many jazz festivals that remain pure (Newport, Chicago, Detroit, New Jersey, Washington DC, Vision Fest, Litchfield come immediately to mind) 7) Jazz radio survives 8) there’s considerable action in contemporary composition for chamber music, symphony orchestra, lots of modern dance (ballet? — I don’t much follow it, but the NY City Ballet puts on new works, Peter Martins has choreographed featuring jazz) and even some new operas. The commenter is right that these are not mainstream commercial art forms, but the world hasn’t passed jazz by, it has embraced many of the values, principles and practices of jazz and applied them to other music (and other art forms). I agree that funding for jazz and the other arts is minimal in the US. But that’s not what this post is about.

    • says

      HM: Thanks for posting this article, it does make some good points with clear comparisons. I’ll check out again — by Ian David Moss, Research Director for Fractured Atlas, managing development of a cultural asset map of the Bay Area in collaboration with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

  2. says

    I pay as much taxes as many so why should the European Classical music get funding and African AMERICAN
    CLASSICAL Music be ignored.

    • says

      HM: Jimmy, that seems to be a point that is being made, whether they intend to or not, by the House Appropriations Committee, since they have NOT asked the NEA to restore the Opera Honors (which were the equivalent, to the NEA, of the Heritage and Jazz fellowships). I haven’t checked into who received Opera honors — there are, after all, composers of contemporary American operas. There is no doubt public funding (Federal? state and local for sure) in support for “classical” Western European music presentation but I have not searched the House report to get any specifics. Perhaps other readers know about this?

  3. says

    A few points to consider:

    1. What these awards are supposed to do for jazz? They come, in most cases, very late in the lifespan of the artists, and provide them with a more comfortable living, but what they are doing for the music in general is not clear to me. I mention this because the thrust of the comments and article imply a linkage between the overall music and the awards that I just don’t see.

    2. If the gov’t is supposed to support this, then the recipients better be representing themselves properly. I’ve heard several of these recipients in panel discussions and such (in front of large audiences of mostly young people) and in one case, the NEA director was also in the audience. With the NEA director a scant few feet away, one recipient was swearing a blue streak, “f**’n this” and f**n that” and other comments like “I was sc**ing this hot waitress with legs that never quit.” Similarly, another recipient that I’ve heard several times drops the F-bomb constantly, and the talks delivered at universities to young students (High School age in many cases) are extremely jaded and cynical. What I’m saying is that if you expect gov’t money, then act accordingly. Politicians who hear that kind of hipster/outsider lingo are not likely to support you (they don’t want a clip of some 80 year old guy talking about his wait staff conquests showing up in a commercial against their vote for NEA funding), and I don’t blame them. Funding is not a one way street.

    3. The list of recipients makes reasonable sense to me overall, but it does seem like other criteria are being used, so there is the usual kind of administrative mission drift that occurs with these types of awards. That being said, there are names on there that I have never heard of, and some that I can barely identify. The 2011 list is notable given that the ENTIRE Marsalis family won the award, which is bizarre.

    4. The never-ending comparisons to other gov’t expenditures are not helpful or persuasive in my opinion. Everyone in the country has something they think is important and worthy of funding (Cowboy Poetry, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Civil War Reenactments, etc.) whose costs are minuscule when compared to an aircraft carrier. It’s not even comparing apples and oranges–at least those are both fruits. That argument appeals to insiders and true believers, but does little or nothing to convince others who may be on the fence or those who are opposed. Make the case based on the merits of the art form and the worthiness of the recipients and leave it at that.

    5. Public and Private funding have been drying up for a long time. For an excellent history (albeit with a dire forecast) read “Art Lessons: Learning from the Rise and Fall of Public Arts Funding” by the late Alice Goldfarb-Marquis. In the book, she details how a surge in public funding for the arts occurred in the middle of the last century, which created an artificial demand for artists and arts organizations of various types (dance, music, theatre, etc.). Thus, in current parlance, an “arts bubble” was created which relied almost solely on donors, both public and private. She also identifies how those benefactors began to move away from arts funding in favor of other charitable donations (hospitals, education, etc.) that provided them with the visibility and cachet that the arts no longer provided.

    Brian Wise, writing online for New York City’s classical music station WQXR, wrote in an article entitled “Classical Music in 2010: Joyful Noise, Troubled Silence” that the trouble that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra had this year is perhaps a harbinger for orchestras around the country. Goldfarb-Marquis’ book was published in 1995, at a time when funding was already waning. It seems that the situation is now exacerbated and accelerated due to the recent recession. The difference from previous recessions is that, if Goldfarb-Marquis was correct, the arts won’t recover as they have previously because the large public donors will not return in force.

    Gene Morrow, Executive Director of the Gotham Early Music Scene, commented on Wise’s article as follows:

    “Large-scale symphony orchestras populated by well-paid musicians in stable careers and heard/supported by musically literate patrons may be, like many other sectors of the American economy, a 20th-century aberration from the norm. Historically and in most other genres, neither musicians nor audiences had it so good.”
    An “aberration from the norm” is another way of saying that the last 75 years have truly been a bubble, which supports Goldfarb-Marquis’ analysis and thesis. Additionally, the historical aspect of this reading is correct–very few musicians prior to the 20th Century ever generated an income stream capable of supporting a family, much less the kingly sum of $130,000 (approximate average yearly salary and benefits of a DSO member). Those that were able to generate a meagre income, did so through the patronage of the church or the aristocracy.