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New name and an expanded mission for Jazz Arts Charlotte
Music education program celebrates first decade
Published Monday, April 1, 2019 11:33 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Jazz Arts Charlotte founder of Jazz Arts Charlotte and Wynton Marsalis, director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, unveiled the music education nonprofit's new name March 30 at the Mint Museum on March 30.

Jazz Arts Charlotte is no longer an initiative.

Lonnie Davis, founder of Jazz Arts Initiative, explained the decision to rebrand the artistic nonprofit by changing the name to coincide with its 10-year anniversary. She and Wynton Marsalis, director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, unveiled the new name and logo at the Mint Museum Uptown on March 30.

“Jazz Arts Initiative was created 10 years ago when we initially identified a need for jazz and jazz education and this work that we are currently doing here in Charlotte,” Davis said. “What we’ve identified, as far as what needed to be done at that time, was so vast. We certainly have a lot of work to do, still, but at that point, we felt that it needed to be an initiative.”

It has since outgrown being categorized as an initiative. Replacing it with the city’s name reflects what Davis described as “bringing the community in.”

“We are no longer an initiative, because we have reached so many students and have built a pretty substantial jazz audience,” she said.

Davis noted Jazz Arts has reached over 50,000 students through its education program. She envisions doubling the size of the Jazz Academy by expanding the audience to early childhood education (ages 3-5) and adults. Early childhood jazz exposure is modeled after Jazz at Lincoln Center’s WeBop program, which was founded in 2006. The latter begins in the fall.

“We have some very ambitious goals for the next 10 years,” Davis said. “We would like to expand our youth ensembles program to reach maybe seven or eight youth ensembles versus the four that we currently have. We want to double the amount of students that we reach each year in [the] Jazz in Schools program. Currently we reach between 12,000-15,000 kids through Jazz in Schools. We know that we can at least double that.”

Marsalis connected the importance of children’s exposure to jazz to three assets, most importantly what he calls “common ground.”

“[No.] 1, it’s OK to be yourself through improvisation,” Marsalis said. “[No.] 2, it’s OK for other people to be themselves, too. Through swing, you have to find a common ground and nurture that common ground with them, and it’s often difficult. It’s not what you want to do necessarily, but the desire for that common ground has to be greater than your desires for yourself. That’s the thing that we struggle with the most now in this particular time. The last thing is, true to blues sometimes, things don’t work out and you have to figure out how to find the optimism required to regenerate. Blues is very regenerative…It doesn’t take a lot of people to create transformation.”  

While education remains paramount to JAC, the Jazz Room has also become a staple of their repertoire.  What started as a monthly show has expanded to six highlighting local and national artists.  

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