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Chamber Music America gives half its money to jazz

The organisation announced $422,000 in new commissions today. Almost half will go to jazz groups.

What do we think about that? Equitable? Inevitable? Politically correct?

Whatever became of the string quartet?

Press release follows.



Chamber Music America Announces $422,000 in Grants for Commissions

19 U.S.-based Ensembles to Receive Support for the Creation of New Works



NEW YORK, NY (June 24, 2013)—Chamber Music America (CMA), the national network for ensemble musicians, has announced the recipients of its 2013 commissioning grants, supporting the creation of new works for small ensembles. CMA will distribute $421,950 to 19 ensembles through two of its major grant programs: New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble Development, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Classical Commissioning, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The grantees in each program were selected by independent peer panels this spring.


A total of $208,500 has been awarded to nine jazz ensembles through the New Jazz Works Program, which provides support for the creation and performance of new works in the jazz idiom, as well as funding for activities that extend the life of the work and allow the ensemble leader to acquire or cultivate career-related business skills. The 2013 grantees are: World Time Zone, a saxophone trio led by Michael Blake; the Sheldon Brown Group, a Bay Area-based quartet; theRobin Verheyen NY Quartet; the Ben Kono Group, a quintet led by Kono on woodwinds; Manuel Valera and New Cuban Express; pianist Andy Milne’s hip-hop and rock-influenced Dapp Theory ensemble; the Alan Ferber Nonet, led by trombonist Alan Ferber; the Jacob Garchik Trio, joined in its commission by the Caravel String Trio; and Sicilian Defense, a quintet led by the trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson.


Ten ensembles have also been awarded a total of $213,450 through the Classical Commissioning Program, which provides support for U.S.-based professional classical and world music ensembles and presenters for the creation and performance of new chamber works by American composers.The 2013 grantees are: Duo Scorpio, a harp duo performing a new work by Nico Muhly; the Kontras Quartet, a string quartet, augmented with bluegrass instrumentation for a new work by Jens Kruger; Melody of China, a Chinese music ensemble, with composer Yuanlin Chen; the Michael Winograd Ensemble, a klezmer ensemble performing a new work by Michael Winograd; Music from China, a traditional Chinese ensemble, with composer Chen Yi; the Mivos Quartet, with composer Eric Wubbels; the PRISM Quartet, a saxophone quartet, with composer Julia Wolfe; the Talea Ensemble, a new music collective performing a new work by Oscar Bettison; ZOFO, a piano duo, with composer William Bolcom; and Ensemble NJ_P, a septet featuring shō, koto, cello, guitar, and electronics, with composer Gene Coleman.


This announcement follows the distribution of an additional $228,875 through CMA’s two other major grant programs earlier this year: the Presenting Jazz Program, also funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which provides grants to concert presenters that engage U.S.-based jazz ensembles; and the Residency Partnership Program, funded by CMA’s Residency Endowment, which supports ensembles and presenters in building audiences for classical/contemporary, jazz, and world chamber music through residency projects.


Chamber Music America, the national network of chamber music professionals, was founded in 1977 to develop and strengthen an evolving chamber music community. With a membership of over 6,000, including musicians, ensembles, presenters, artists’ managers, educators, music businesses, and advocates of ensemble music, CMA welcomes and represents a wide range of musical styles and traditions. In addition to its grant programs, CMA provides its members with consulting services, access to health and instrument insurance, conferences, seminars and several publications, including Chamber Music magazine. Visit


The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. Established in 1996, the Foundation supports four national grant-making programs. It also supports three properties that were owned by Doris Duke—in Hillsborough, New Jersey; Honolulu, Hawaii, and Newport, Rhode Island—all of which are open to the public. The foundation awarded its first grants in 1997 and has awarded more than $1 billion to date.


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  1. Kenneth Griffin says:

    According to Wikipedia, Doris Duke developed a lifelong interest in jazz and befriended jazz musicians. It isn’t surprising that the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation funds this jazz grant program, distributed by CMA.

  2. I’d say it’s equitable. Classical and jazz music are both art music genres that, at their best, demand tremendous craft and artistry both from composers and performers, as well as great attention from their listeners. They both also appeal to a small portion of the general music-loving public – around 5% of American listeners identify jazz as their favourite music, a similar market share to classical music. The 5% figure comes from a 1992 NEA survey which is discussed here: (Do any Slipped Disc readers out there have a link to more recent data?)

  3. Doris Duke, who left her fortune (or a large part of it) to support the arts, specifically wanted Jazz and Dance to be supported. I applaud CMA for supporting what the rest of the the world sees as America’s greatest art form. But they support much more as well….. virtually all aspects related to the creation, performance and presentation of chamber music. This includes jazz that fits CMA’s definition of chamber music (which I believe is: ensembles ranging from 2 to 11 pieces). 50% of CMA’s support of chamber music going to Jazz in the U.S.A. seems about right to me. In any event it is what Doris Duke wanted CMA or someone to do with much of what she left, and we are all the richer for her generosity, and CMA’s stewardship of this part of her legacy.

  4. David Rowe says:

    Years ago, when CMA first applied for (and then began administering) the Doris Duke funds for jazz, I engaged in substantial discussion with many in the organization questioning the reasoning behind and – more important – wisdom of conflating jazz with chamber music. Because this is essentially a financial matter (the Duke money represents a sizable portion of CMA’s overall budget) I was never surprised to be mostly ignored (at best) and often attacked as myopic, inflexible, and “behind the times”. My point was/is only that I do not believe it serves either art form well – not jazz nor chamber music – to try and maintain the fiction they are “one in the same”, which clearly they are not. In fact, to this day one will search in vain through the CMA annual directory to find more than a handful of jazz musicians/series/festivals advertising there. Nor do jazz musicians and presenters attend the annual conference. The predicted utopian view that “we have much in common and to learn from each other” simply has not materialized, and worse, it is clear that without a strong focus, CMA has become nearly irrelevant to the core chamber music community.
    My simple wish – expressed on multiple occasions to the CMA board and staff – is that rather than try and re-define “chamber music”, they instead choose a different organizational name which better reflects that they have deliberately added a second, separate art form to their umbrella. Nothing at all wrong with that, especially when the Duke money is there to fund it! After all, using the logic employed to add jazz, why not include rock bands?
    About 5 years ago I did a very simple survey of the artists presented on all US music series which contained the words “chamber music”. The result was that over 98% of the ensembles were strict classical music groups….and of the ones which were not, most of those were represented on the CMA board at the time!!

  5. The problem isn’t so much the jazz, given that there is a dedicated funding source earmarked for it,, which is a funder’s prerogative. But none of the ‘classical’ listed seems to be anything other than ‘cross-over’ (aka dumbing-down) imitation ethno-folk ‘world’ music, and commercial grade/electronica ‘mash-ups’ — as if Sony ‘classical’ were doing the choosing.

  6. If Doris Duke loved Jazz, then, an organization specifically supporting it should have been, or should be, formed. The CMA’s Mission Statement, and 990 must state why it was formed and what it does. I don’t know, in fact, if Jazz
    would qualify, all of a sudden. It should be a separate entity. However, to include Hip-Hop is insane and only legitimizes what is not really music through this organization whose reputation rests on Classical Music. As for the other groups, I am not familiar with the works they perform. In any event, the Jazz groups should be of a very high standard to qualify. The standard of a genre need not be diminished. PC must not be a consideration. Why would one find it necessary, when there are fine Black Jazz players ? Music is where the now tainted concept of Multiculturalism resided, and resides. Did Doris Duke love American Jazz that she heard, or did she include
    ensembles’ works, such as those chosen by the CMA?

    • You have some good points about the CMA’s mission statement, but your comment about hip-hop “not really [being] music” is untrue and uncalled for.

  7. The definition of chamber music for years has been one person to a part performing without conductor. The well established Chamber Music world accepted jazz as chamber music several years ago. I presented the New York Jazz Sextet as chamber music in the 1960′s along side woodwind quintets, string quartets, etc. This is not a new concept. Ann Summers Dossena

    • David Rowe says:

      Although technically true – that CMA’s definition of “chamber music” was always simply “one musician to a part” – it is obvious that the only reason genre was not specified in 1977 (or ever!) was that everybody understands chamber music pertains to classical music. Who genuinely believes otherwise? Certainly not jazz musicians (ask them!). As mentioned above, those presenters who self-select as chamber music presenters present exclusively classical music. The day CMA decided jazz was chamber music was the day they applied to administer the Duke funding in the late 1990s. When a funder comes along to support hip hop or heavy metal, then those “one musician to a part” groups will be seen as chamber music. Follow the money.
      This is nothing against jazz. My point is that by taking this approach, CMA has lost sight of its purpose – to promote and advocate tirelessly for CHAMBER MUSIC. And more concerning, their deliberate mash-up of genres will, over time, confuse those in the field who wish to become educated about the art form. I dare say there are probably members on CMA’s board of directors who have never heard a Haydn quartet live (or at least who had not prior to joining the board!) How can such an organization really be the voice of chamber music? It can not, and is not. The solution is simple: change the name and then support whatever music you like. Just don’t cynically manipulate and contort the universal association of chamber music with classical music in order to justify accepting funding for jazz.

  8. I imagine that in the 17th and 18th century there were those who said that bringing the rough sounds of the county dances Bouree and Minuet into the court was inappropriate and had nothing whatever to do with the fine music that was part and parcel of their lives at Blois and Versailles. Wasn’t this a kind of crossover? Wasn’t bringing the sounds of Poland and the Ottomans into the music of the Parisian or London concert room a blotch on what was thought of as fine music? Scarlatti and flamenco guitar? Vulgar!

    Jazz has been an American form of art music (similar to earlier performance forms before improvisation became so disrespected on the concert stage!) into which African Americans needed to pour their genius. Performed in small clubs it has so much to do with a tradition of chamber music (look to Handel and Bononcini’s first performances in London, at Taverns!) that its position in the larger tent of Chamber Music is obvious to all who know more about our music history than those who think it starts with Bach (who also performed his best music at a Coffee House in Leipzig.. improvising and presenting his “one on a part concertos” while coffee and pastries are being served).

    There is a classism that infects those who were repulsed by Boccherini and Scarlatti’s inspiration in the genius of the gypsy and there is a racism that insists that Jazz is not part of Chamber Music.

    I love Beethoven and Bach and Mozart and Bartok more than anything and it touches me most directly. I do not listen regularly to Jazz performances…though more since CMA has embraced its many forms with the help of the Doris Duke Foundation. However MY PERSONAL tastes have nothing to do with the larger definitions of art forms.

    Most of the people who railed up against CMA’s opening of boundaries were really reacting to giving up what they thought was their piece of the CMA pie not realizing that the pie was getting bigger as the party was getting larger and including more musicians.

    Chamber Music AMERICA must, in its definition and work respond to AMERICA. It can not be Chamber Music EUROPE from 1730-1950. We are a country of many ethnicities and national origins bringing to our palate the largest diversity of musical vocabularies. This is neither PC, or Cross over. it is America..and it is our Chamber Music.

    • David Rowe says:

      Thank you Andrew – it is of course immensely helpful in fostering a civil tone to designate one with differing views as racist. And by the President of CMA, no less. I am honored!

    • David Rowe says:

      Furthermore, as perhaps the most vocal of those who tried (unsuccessfully) to engage CMA in an honest, open discussion about the merits of adding jazz, I can speak with authority that the above characterization of our motivation and primary concern is not at all accurate. The concern is that we already have plenty of organizations whose tent is broad and inclusive (APAP and ISPA to name just the two largest). The field of Chamber Music would really benefit from a dedicated, focused voice in today’s cluttered cultural climate. (A voice as clearly defined as the Duke Foundation, in fact, which explicitly excludes classical music from their mission!) Diffusing and confusing art form is unlikely to help preserve and foster it in any way.

      • I wrote my comments as Andrew Appel, harpsichordist and director of the Four Nations Ensemble. I also write a blog here at Artsjournal. I did not want to mention that I was president of CMA because I was not writing for CMA. I am not expressing anything in this context that has to do with my responsibilities to that body, which I continue to admire and to which I feel a strong obligation of service. CMA helps us all, performers, presenters, composers, managers, everyone who is in love with music and everyone who places music in the center of their lives.

        But you can be sure, expressing myself from my vantage point as a somewhat successful performer of Baroque music, presenter of music at various arts organizations during my career, and and arts educator, that I feel strongly that your lack of success in your efforts at CMA was because your arguments were faulty. Those arguments did not take the day.

        • David Rowe says:

          The only “argument” is that the organization which calls itself Chamber Music America is today in fact misnamed. At no time did anybody imply jazz is not as vibrant and important an idiom as chamber music – the (attempted – never embraced) discussion was at no time about relative merits. The question was only about the wisdom of “Chamber Music America” becoming a service organization in which half of its funding and attention is devoted exclusively to jazz. That, it seems to me, is exactly what Norman was raising. How does this serve the very real need in today’s environment for a committed, focused advocate on behalf of chamber music?

          The issue cuts the other way as well. Do jazz musicians really identify themselves as chamber music players? (Do they want to??!)

        • David Rowe says:

          Also…what a relief that I was being called racist by the harpsichordist and director of the Four Nations Ensemble, and not by the President of CMA. (That makes me feel much better!)

  9. What a revolting conversation about what is and isn’t “music” or “serious music.”

  10. John Porter says:

    This is such old news. CMA brought jazz into the fold many years ago. (Yawn). I think its been great for the organization. And by the way, jazz gets so little money. Much less than classical, with the exception of very large organizations like SF Jazz and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    That grants from a foundation dedicated to jazz would bother some people is beyond me. Mellon supports the classical side and Duke supports the jazz side. One does not diminish the other.

    I give CMA credit for avoiding the dinosaur syndrome. Bravo to its board and president.

    • Paula forrest says:

      The inclusion of jazz in Chamber Music America’s definition of what it represents it may have been great for the organization. But I’m not sure it has been great for chamber musicians and chamber music presenters, in the “old-fashioned” sense of the term.

      David Rowe’s opinions have been wildly misinterpreted. Can we not allow that some people love one sort of music, and some people love another? Or maybe they love both. But when they come to hear “chamber music”, they are more than likely expecting one thing, and at a jazz concert, another. And when they are interested in supporting “chamber music”, or chamber musicians, they have certain expectations, as well.

      The facetious remark about “Chamber Music Europe: 1730 – 1950″ is as wildly inaccurate as the accusation of racism. Chamber music series throughout the country include music written as recently as last year, by composers of every stripe and nationality. We are far from being dinosaurs.

  11. Erica Shupp says:

    Dear Andy Appel:

    I was very surprised by part of your comments.

    if you enter a discussion on a subject that exclusively deals with matters concerning Chamber Music America, you as its present President cannot expect that you are seen simply as a lover and performer of what rightly should be called chamber music, but because of CMA’s agenda now almost has to be referred to as ‘classical chamber music’.

    You are CMA. So, in that capacity, you cannot get so bothered that you distort what the discussion has been about from the beginning and then, to top it all off, pull out the race card. It is more than unfair to our audiences, CMA, or to the people who do or do not agree with CMA, yet still do the hard work – and by the way, that latter list only Starts with Mr. Rowe.

    I do laud the Duke Foundation. A very intelligent organization. I have, however, from the beginning compared the “merger” to the Trojan Horse as far as chamber music is concerned. And that it seems to have become. I would like to mention only one conversation I have had with one of the major spokespersons of CMA: when I related how I find it interesting to help chamber music presenters decide for the right program that would contribute to the continued interest in chamber music, I was told “we at CMA do the same thing”. That made me curious and I found out that if a presenter calls the office and says that they are having trouble presenting chamber music, the organization suggests “why do you not try jazz”……

    CMA is a service organization. It was founded on “chamber music” or “classical chamber music”. For a service organization to declare for financial reasons, as many see it, that because classical music and jazz solely share the nature of “one to a part” both fall into the same category that until CMA’s shift was strictly the domain of one alone is a bit akin to rewriting cultural history…. This is a major objection.

    So, for these reasons it would be very helpful if CMA should identify itself under a different name, and as the umbrella organization for both art forms. And then, with honesty, we should finally find the necessary passion for both, and celebrate the differences instead of mudding the waters or even pitting one against the other. Could this be possibly – maybe – possible??

  12. John Gingrich says:

    As the former board secretary of Chamber Music America, I’ve already suggested that the organization be renamed Small Ensemble America with a classical wing and a jazz wing, that could then pursue, with enthusiasm, the interests of both. The director of the Duke Foundation found this to be an amusing idea a few years ago. Artists flow easily within the various musics we have, even as they expand our definitions. The question for me is what role should service organizations play in creating definitions, which strikes me as a discussion that could be carried in a way that doesn’t need to descend to name calling or unfortunate characterizations.

  13. I have read this discussion with interest, and agree with Paula Forrest, Erica Shupp and John Gingrich. The argument that David Rowe has been making was misinterpreted. There seems to be a concensus among at least a good number of the writers here that if CMA would change it’s name – to something like Small Ensemble Music America or the like – and create two “wings” of the organization, as suggested by Gingrich and others, this very real problem would be addressed. Good suggestion by David Rowe – ask a jazz musician if they call themselves “chamber musicians”, and vice versa. They both exist, they are different, they attract different audiences (with some crossover, of course), and have different histories. There is no reason to deny these facts, or try to ‘merge’ the two. They are what they are, whether they share certain characteristics or not.
    Clouding the issue by becoming combative does not serve this discussion.

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