Welcome to the Jazz Education network! This is my first note as President, and I am thrilled to be of service to this music that we love and the inspired group of educators, fans, students, and artists that compose our growing community. It goes without saying that I stand on the shoulders of the previous JEN Presidents, Board members, and volunteers. Special thanks to Caleb Chapman, Bob Sinicrope, Andrew Surmani, Dr. Lou Fischer, and Mary Jo Papich. Their work, dedication, and sacrifice have created a first-class organization that supports and inspires like-minded people the world over. It is a humbling experience to follow in their capable hands, and I dedicate myself to living up to their standards.
Jazz as an art form has always been equated with the best of our nation. It sprang from our ancestor’s differences and then brought us together. Integrated 14 years before Jackie Robinson donned a uniform for the Brooklyn Dodgers, it was then exported to the world. Our grandparents (or great grandparents!) danced to it, courted to it, fell in love to it. Our parents heard it in the strains of their popular music and as background to popular TV shows and movies. Even during the height of the Cold War when American school children were practicing drills to protect themselves from potential nuclear holocaust, jazz artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, and Louis Armstrong performed around the world as an example of America’s excellence, open communication, and most importantly, freedom. In 2006, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opened the 50thanniversary commemoration of the 1956 Diplomacy tour with this:
“Back then [in 1956], America’s civil rights movement was still in its infancy and we still had a long way to go to live up to the democratic ideals of our country’s founding. But it was in American culture, in the story of people like Dizzy Gillespie that one could see the future promise of our country. A young man of modest means, the youngest of nine children, whose creative genius transcended boundaries of race, and class, and culture. Even at a time when liberty was denied here in America – a time that I remember well as a girl growing up in the segregated city of Birmingham, Alabama – the music of Dizzy Gillespie spoke the language of freedom; the freedom to think, to innovate, and to speak in one’s own voice. This liberating power of jazz resonated here at home and it had great appeal to millions of people around the world, many of whom still longed for their own liberty. For these audiences, in Latin America, in Europe, and in the Middle East, Dizzy Gillespie’s world tour left an indelible impression of the vibrancy of American culture, the diversity of American society, and most of all, the power of hope that freedom holds for all people.”(Jazz, Public Diplomacy)
This past winter, while on tour in Europe with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, we experienced wildly enthusiastic audience responses unlike anything we have experienced in recent years — multiple standing ovations, wild cheering, and overflowing education events. It was as if the entire continent had been waiting for us to arrive. It really was uncanny and a bit unsettling as past years’ tours, while positively received, did not generate this outpouring of feeling. It reminded us of the power that jazz possesses, the transformative power to gradually move the needle just a slight bit, toward a common understanding of our shared humanity. And in times of international upheaval, uncertain economic times, and social unrest at home and abroad, jazz still speaks to the indomitable strength of the human soul and the language of freedom. As we look toward a new school year, let us remember these lessons, the power of this music, and how we bring this to our audiences and students alike.
In the spirit of swing,
Todd Stoll has spent nearly thirty years as an educator, performer and leading advocate for jazz. He currently serves as Vice President of Education for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City where he oversees programs that reach more than 200,000 people each year. His leadership at JALC has revived the institutions commitment to the underserved while embracing 21st century technology as a means for greater access to the music. Since his tenure began in 2011, the education department at JALC produced nearly 20,000 individual events both in its home at Fredrick P Rose Hall, throughout the US, and abroad.