Wherever you as a listener absorb it, jazz is a magic that consists of one part extreme preparation on the part of the musicians through thousands of hours of dedicated practice, and one part improvisation—the courage and freedom to touch the stars and then land on your feet.
When your new jazz organization, established to support musicians and build Philadelphia’s brand as a jazz city, must suddenly navigate a global pandemic, that same combination of preparation and improvisation is key.
After two years of uncertainty, Jazz Philadelphia is ready to launch two new exciting programs that will serve artists from our new home at the Merriam Theater. We’re proud to be a part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus, and grateful that they have provided incubator space for us to grow. Especially in uncertain times, partnerships are everything.
Our new CORE Cooperative is an entrepreneurship and wellness program that will offer artists at all stages of their careers a chance to develop a business plan and health plan that will keep them on solid footing as they continue to develop their careers in challenging times. We hope to create a network of mutually supportive artists and professionals who will serve as leaders and entrepreneurs in addition to being the artists they are at their core.
The Passages program will bring together young artists with experienced elders in a jazz jam, mentorship, and storytelling program. We’re excited to be restoring important intergenerational connections, raising the level of play for talented middle- and high-school aged musicians, and surfacing and capturing stories that will one day be the kinds of narratives you’ll find on our interactive Jazz History Timeline.
Both programs will launch in late winter, but we’re taking names of interested participants now, and we’re also actively raising funds to ensure that artists are paid to participate in these programs. We never want financial concerns to be a barrier to the people who need these programs most.
Jazz Philadelphia is proud that these programs were developed in concert with the community. When we were swept up in the same COVID cancellations as everyone else in 2020, just two years after our founding, we had luckily just been through an intensive, two-year community engagement process. Musicians, presenters, media professionals and jazz educators came together to determine what new programs, practices, and public relations needed to be in place in order to achieve our mission with the incredible group of arts leaders and artists who serve on our board and on our committees. That preparation built relationships, and developed a base of trust that we must work to maintain.
Improvising the last two years, when we couldn’t be together with that group, meant a lot of different things. It meant quickly developing a crisis communications plan. It meant developing a white paper to communicate devastating industry impacts to funders and government officials, and advocating for arts funding to be reinstated in city budgets. It meant launching our Hometown Heroes program in partnership with jazz and classical station WRTI in order to keep artists in the forefront in the minds of audiences when stages were silent.
It meant investing in relationships, such as our partnership with the Kimmel Cultural Campus, as well as infrastructure, including building our interactive website. It meant taking our annual thought leadership conference, the Jazz Philadelphia Summit, online, but still bringing our audience powerhouse musicians such as Terri Lyne Carrington and Christian McBride. And it meant convening virtual Town Halls to hear what people were experiencing and to reassure everyone—musicians, arts professionals, educators and others—that they were not alone, and that we were in this together.
In one of those Town Halls, a young musician put a powerful idea to the group. His hope, he said, was that we might emerge from the pandemic stronger than we went in. With the launch of Passages and the CORE Cooperative, we’ll intend to make his hopeful vision for the jazz community a reality.
To get to this launch point, we’ve had support from major foundations, including the Wyncote Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Trust, the William Penn Foundation, and the Presser Foundation, and we’re about to embark on plans to build support from individuals who care about jazz as an artform, and who want to support the artists who carry tradition with them as they forge genre-busting pathways into the future of jazz in the City of Brother Love.
With continued support and a focus on investing in musicians, we know that we can help build sustainable careers for the jazz artists who live in our city, and ensure our reputation as a world-class jazz destination.
As we slowly emerge from the devastation of the pandemic, we find ourselves ready to rebuild, and ready for Philadelphia to take center stage in the jazz world.
Jazz Philadelphia’s mission is to advance the development of the city’s thriving and vibrant local jazz scene and to gain recognition for Philadelphia as a world-class jazz destination. Your support helps us support artists and achieve our mission.