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Grass roots jazz scenes organizing in Boston, Philly

Jul 25th, 2012 | By

July 31 is the date of simultaneous though unconnected meetings of broad coalitions of activists from local jazz scenes in Boston and Philadelphia. Jazz Boston holds a public meeting, specifically focused on the future of Boston jazz radio, at the Boston Public Library from 6 to 8 pm., and Jazz Bridge holds a Town Hall Meeting for Jazz at the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and the Performing Arts, from 5:30 to 8 pm.

Members of the JJA will be present to report on, and in some cases to participate in, the discussions and proceedings. Eric Jackson and Steve

Eric Jackson and Pauline Bilsky, Boston

Schwartz, both negatively affected by cutbacks on jazz programs at WGBH-FM, are both recipients of Broadcaster of the Year Awards from the JJA. Howard Mandel, president of the JJA, will sit on a panel at the Philadelphia meeting with Michael Ricci of AllAboutJazz and JazzNearYou, and a representative from WRTI-Radio. Pauline Bilsky, executive director of Jazz Boston, was named a JJA Jazz Hero on June 20, 2012, and Suzanne Cloud, executive director of JazzBridge, is also a JJA professional member (as a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer and a monthly column for JazzTimes.com).

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter outside John Coltrane House restoration; photo by Suzanne Cloud

Jazz Boston and Jazz Bridge are both local non-profit, mostly volunteer-run arts service organizations, lending outreach and structure into these meetings. Each of them encourages musicians, fans, presenters, producers, publishers, educational institutions, businesses and government offices interacting with “jazz”  to come together in discussions aimed at exploring their current municipal jazz ecosystems and sustaining their assets. The Philadelphia Jazz Coalition,  whose launch is being announced at the Clef Club meeting, reportedly has strong moral if not financial support from Mayor Michael Nutter; it is being moderated by veteran Philadelphia broadcaster Orien Reid.

Jazz Boston’s meeting, for “everyone who is connected in some way to the music, personally or professionally, and cares about its future,” will be moderated by Emmett Price, musician, Chair of African American Studies and Associate Professor of Music and African American Studies at Northeastern University, with José Massó, longtime community activist and WBUR-FM announcer/producer. Both are JazzBoston board members.

As Jazz Boston’s website states:

Other cities have faced the same problems we’re facing now in Boston, and some of the most enlightened ones have found solutions. With clear goals, a coordinated effort by Boston’s jazz community, and the support of allies inside and outside the arts world, we’re optimistic we can find solutions here too. . .

The informal conversation format will allow us to share views, forge ties, agree on goals, and begin developing strategies for collaborative actions that address the immediate issue of WGBH’s withdrawal from weeknight jazz programing and the longer term issue of the future of local jazz radio.

What does the organization suggest you do (and this applies to people in Philadelphia, and perhaps elsewhere whenever jazz fans plan to meet)?

Take a careful look at your own network of friends and colleagues, identify the ones who care about the quality of our city’s cultural life, and bring them with you on the 31st.


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