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2010 and Beyond

Jan 15th, 2010 | By

Howard MandelDear JJA members,

What do you get for your Jazz Journalists Association membership dues (which we urge you to pay via credit card online at PayPal, a free service linked at the JJA’s virtual Office at Jazzhouse.org)? It’s a fair question to ask the principals of any organization, one that occurs to new members as well as our re-upping core.

We’re a watchdog on professional interests. A network of contacts across the world pursuing common journalistic efforts. We provide unique training opportunities (for the first time, we’ve been offered a free two-day Web Journalism Workshop by New York-based Mediakite; details on this will follow via jja-announce). We share a website focusing on our particular issues, and publish a journal in which members can file reports on special topics. You full members get voting privileges (responsibilities) in what has become the best recognized Jazz Awards, presented annually, in the world.

In 2009, the JJA extended supportive consultation to member–writers who organized themselves during the rocky transition of ownership of JazzTimes. We’ve mentored student journalists and advised each other on the pressing complications of media transformation, the opportunities as well as challenges of publishing online. We launched a new website, Jazzjournalists.org, for promotion of the 13th annual JJA Jazz Awards, which was another industry-wide smash.

As it turns out, the best way to get more from your membership dues is to contribute more — of yourself.

For the first time, we posted YouTube clips from the Awards of performances (by Charles Tolliver’s Big Band and Jane Bunnett’s Spirits of Havana) and presentations (to Hank Jones, Mark Murphy and Bruce Lundvall, among others). We welcomed SESAC, Absolutely Live, Arbors Records, BPR music, the Detroit International Jazz Festival, Doxy Records, IPO Recordings, the Jazz Institute of Chicago, Resonance Records, Sunnyside Records and the Tanglewood Jazz Festival as new sponsors, and thanked All About Jazz–New York, Blue Note Records, Boosey and Hawkes, Columbia Legacy, George Wein, Half Note Records, Hot House, the Jazz Foundation of America, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Motéma Music, North Coast Brewing Company and Zenph Studios for continued support. We honored (among dozens) Lee Konitz, Sonny Rollins, Anat Cohen, Esperanza Spalding, Kurt Elling, Arturo O’Farrill, Billy Bang, Terence Blanchard, SFJazz, two fine Seattle high-school jazz educators, musician-scholar-writer George Lewis for his fine book A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music and Paris resident Mike Zwerin for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism! Doug Ramsey, last year’s honoree, handed the statuette to Mike’s son Ben. At the Jazz Standard, we had the jazz party of the year.

Also: JJA members held Jazz Matters public panel discussions at festivals in Ottawa, Portland and Monterey, and in other diverse music convocations — in New York, of course, but also Chicago, Boston, Newport, Montreal, Detroit — strengthening bonds when we met as colleagues. We ought to do more of that. It only takes the willpower and effort of three JJA members to set up Jazz Matters meetings, really, and there are tangible benefits.

Among the JJA’s other successes in 2009: the appointment of Jo Ann Collins, effective November 1, 2009, as Membership Secretary, charged with reorganizing and maintaining the JJA’s organizational membership list — a big job that Jo Ann has the astuteness to conquer. Treasurer Eugene Marlow’s first year in the position has proved to be a good one; and by the way, the JJA is solvent, due to the mostly volunteer labor of its most active members.

This year the JJA submitted ambitious proposals to three major funding organizations for projects including a profession-wide conference we hoped to hold in New York in January. All three proposals were turned down, but the rejections were accompanied by apologies, compliments on the grant writing and constructive comments encouraging us to revise and apply again. As an alternative, the JJA created its own programming around the second weekend of January — coincident with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference and the announcement of the 2010 NEA Jazz Masters at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Look for more about that successful and very worthwhile mini-conference, held in New York from January 8-12, on the new JJA News website.

Do these activities strike you as worth your membership dues? I hope not. The vision I have for the JJA is one that is much more productive. We should be holding continuous training sessions and roundtables on online jazz journalism. We ought to be outreaching to more music journalists for ideas and collaborative energies to get to more readers, viewers and listeners who dig jazz. We should be burning up our international networks to find out more about our work and the music we love so much that we devote our professional lives to covering it. The JJA’s members should be best informed and most central to all the debates, discussions, considerations and determinations about how our journalistic profession and aesthetic preferences can survive and thrive.

As it turns out, the best way to get more from your membership dues is to contribute more — of yourself. The JJA needs members to propose new programs that they themselves (though not they alone) will work to realize. JJA meetings can be localized. JJA websites and online documents can be used to greater potential. The JJA’s network could be more alive and productive. How to do it? Pitch in! Be in touch about what you’ll do so that all of us can help jazz journalism more than keep its footholds but perhaps even take steps forward in 2010. It may be uphill, but that’s never stopped the greatest jazz musicians. I take this hint from them: Play along and look ahead.

Into the New Year,
President Howard


About Howard Mandel

Howard Mandel is an author, media and events producer, editor, educator, lecturer and president of the Jazz Journalists Association.

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