JEN’s award program has been in existence since the organization’s first year.

Each year, we proudly recognize the talented and hardworking students and educators who have made an impact on jazz. We also offer a number of additional programs that help fund and support jazz education.

2020 Award Recipients

Presented at the 2020 JEN Conference in New Orleans


JEN LeJENds of Jazz Education

Kidd Jordan

Legendary saxophonist & New Orleans resident Sir Edward “Kidd” Jordan is one of the true master improvisers still performing today.  Jordan was recognized as a jazz maverick back in the 1940s intent on exploring jazz rooted music’s outer reaches.

Born in Crowley, LA, on May 5, 1935, Jordan grew up listening to Zydeco and Blues.  It was there that he learned to play saxophone, and after hearing Charlie Parker and Lester Young, he became interested in the art of jazz improvisation.

This virtuoso unselfishly shared his gift of and passion for music for more than 50 years, 34 of which he spent at Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) until he retired in 2006 as head of the jazz studies program.

Jordan performs on tenor, baritone, soprano, alto, C-melody and soprano sax, as well as contrabass and bass clarinets. He has performed and recorded with a broad array of musicians in styles ranging from R&B to avant-garde jazz, including Lena Horne, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Cannonball Adderley, Ornette Coleman, and many more.

Citing him as a visionary educator and performer, the French Government recognized Jordan in 1985 as a Knight (Chevalier) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, their nation’s highest honor.

Jordan earned his master’s degree in music from Millikin University in Decatur, IL. In May of 2017, he received an honorary doctor of music degree from Loyola University New Orleans.


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JEN LeJENds of

Latin Jazz

Chucho Valdés

Winner of six GRAMMY® and three Latin GRAMMY® Awards, the Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés is the most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz.

Born in a family of musicians in Quivicán, Havana province, Cuba, on October 9, 1941, Dionisio Jesús “Chucho” Valdés Rodríguez, has distilled elements of the Afro-Cuban music tradition, jazz, classical music, and rock into an organic, deeply personal style.

His first teacher was his father, the great pianist, composer and bandleader Ramón “Bebo” Valdés.  By the age of three, Chucho was already playing the melodies he heard on the radio at the piano, using both hands and in any key. In 1959, at age 15, he debuted professionally with Sabor de Cuba, directed by Bebo Valdés.

His most recent project, Jazz Batá 2, is an exceptional work in which he revisits an idea he first explored in 1972: a piano jazz trio featuring batá drums, the sacred, hourglass shaped drums of the Yoruba religion in Cuba, in place of the conventional trap set. Released on November 16, 2018, Jazz Batá 2 marks Chucho’s debut on Mack Avenue Records.

Achievements and awards in recognition of his extraordinary career, Chucho has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Science™, and was also inducted in the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Chucho has won Grammys for Live at the Village Vanguard(Bluenote, 2000), Juntos Para Siempre (Calle 54, 2007), the duet recording with his father, Bebo; for Chucho’s Steps (Comanche, 2010), which introduced his group, the Afro-Cuban Messengers, and the Tribute to Irakere: Live at Marciac  (Jazz Village / Comanche Music, 2016).


John LaPorta Jazz Educator

of the Year Award

Paul Pitts

Paul Pitts was born in 1956 in Boston, MA. He attended St. Thomas Grammar School and the Boston Latin School graduating in 1973. He attended Boston University graduating with a Bachelor of Music in 1977 and a Master of Music in 1980. He has performed with the Portland Symphony Orchestra , Boston Opera Company, Rhode Island Philharmonic, New Hampshire Symphony and the Nashua Symphony Orchestra. He has been active in music education for the last forty years serving as Massachusetts Association of Jazz Educators State President, MMEA Eastern District Festival Host, All – State Jazz Band Manager, All – State Concert Band Manager, Southeast District Jazz Band Manager. He has guest conducted the All Cape Jazz Ensemble(2005), Central District Junior Jazz Ensemble (2002), Connecticut C.M.E.A. Eastern Region Junior High Jazz Band (1996), Mass Lions All-State Jazz Band (1993 & 2012), and  S.E.M.S.B.A High School Festival Orchestra (1990). In addition to Boston University he has studied at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Fitchburg State College and the Berklee College of Music.


Donald Meade Legacy Griot Award

In partnership with the African American Jazz Caucus

Stephen Foster

Music educator, musician, and arranger Stephen Foster is a native of New Orleans, and is the 2020 recipient of the Donald Meade Legacy Jazz Griot Award.

A graduate of St. Augustine High School, University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff, Loyola University, and Band Director’s Academy Jazz at Lincoln Center, Stephen’s inspiration hails from studying Conducting/Orchestration under the tutelage of Dr. Ernest G. Chachere. He founded the Children’s Academy of Music, Mid-City Full Arts Workshop, Foster Family programs and developed the Jazz education curriculum for Stax Music Academy. Stephen is a member of the African American Jazz Caucus (AAJC) and the Quincy Jones Muzik Consortium.

Using a holistic approach, he has inspired thousands of students over 46 years to become viable, contributing professionals in our society.


JEN President’s Service Award

Ryan Adamsons

A native of Springfield, Virginia, Ryan Adamsons is based in Chicago where his diverse talents and interests have led him to a career encompassing a wide variety of activities in education and the music industry at large.

Ryan is an active trumpet player as well as a sought-after clinician and instructor with nearly two decades of experience working with groups of all sizes and styles, from small group jazz to championship level drum corps.  He is an accomplished author with several published articles both online and in print, and is co-editor of the forthcoming book Rehearsing the Jazz Band, available from Meredith Music.  Ryan is also a prolific composer and arranger with over fifty commissioned and performed works for jazz ensemble from the middle school level to professional, with his educational works published by Kendor.

In addition to his role as Conference Production Coordinator with JEN, Ryan is on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and is the Jazz Area Manager for The Midwest Clinic.  He is a Denis Wick Ambassador and plays Powell Custom trumpets and flugelhorns.



JEN LeJENds of Jazz Education

Established in 2012 by the JEN Board of Directors, the JEN LeJENds of Jazz Education Award honors true legends in jazz education. This award is bestowed upon a jazz educator who has distinguished themselves by living up to the JEN Mission.

The following criteria are some of the qualities used for the selection of this award. These criteria should have been demonstrated over several decades of work.

  • Demonstration of being an outstanding educator.
  • Promoting Jazz in all formats (performance and audiences).
  • Encouraging and inspiring musicians, teachers and aficionados of all ages.
  • Recognition at a national and/or international level.
  • Demonstration of a true passion for the art.

Past honorees:

2019 – Barry Harris
2018 – Dr. John Edward Hasse
2017 – Ellis Marsalis
2016 – Phil Mattson
2015 – Herbie Hancock, Bobby Shew
2014 – Paris Rutherford, Ed Soph
2013 – Rufus Reid, Dave Liebman
2012 – Jamey Aebersold, David Baker, Jerry Coker & Dan Haerle

JEN LeJENds of Latin Jazz Award

Established in 2014 by the JEN Board of Directors, the JEN LeJENds of Latin Jazz Awardhonors true legends of Latin Jazz. This award is bestowed upon a musician who has distinguished themselves by living up to the JEN Mission.

The following criteria are some of the qualities used for the selection of this award. These criteria should have been demonstrated over several decades of work.

  • Demonstration of being an outstanding performer/educator
  • Promoting Jazz in all formats (performance and audiences)
  • Encouraging and inspiring musicians, teachers and aficionados of all ages
  • Recognition at a national and/or international level
  • Demonstration of a true passion for the art
  • Sharing and expanding the art of Latin Jazz in all areas listed above

Past honorees:

2019 – Alex Acuña
2018 – Bobby Sanabria
2017 – Eddie Palmieri
2016 – Paquito D’Rivera
2015 – Poncho Sanchez
2014 – Candido Camero

Meade Legacy Jazz Griot Award

To Recognize and Celebrate those whose Unique Voices make the story of jazz music more complete.

Founded by the African American Jazz Caucus(AAJC), The Donald Meade Legacy Foundation has been founded upon the premise that the “story” is an essential part of Jazz education and that the storyteller or Griot creates a vital link between the music and life stories. Donald Meade’s first voice stories embrace the social, political and cultural realities that shaped and created jazz truths.  He has inspired and encouraged numerous jazz artists, and he was a steadfast advocate for jazz education, particularly for young people.  The AAJC foundation, presented in tandem with JEN, continues his legacy through recognizing other jazz griots with the Meade Legacy Jazz Griot, in addition to creating platforms in which their stories can heard around the world. Learn more…

Past honorees:

2019 – Jimmy Heath
2018 – Nobuko “Cobi” Narita
2017 – Willie Pickens
2016 – Larry Reni Thomas
2015 – Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
2014 – Dr. Larry Ridley
2013 – Dr. Willis Kirk
2012 – Donald Meade

President's Service Award

The President’s Service Award is awarded annually by the President in consultation with the President-Elect, Vice President, Immediate Past President, and additional members of the Advisory Council of Past Presidents to an individual that has satisfied the following criteria:

  1. Two years of continuing service to the organization
  2. Given tirelessly of their efforts, resources, expertise, and time
  3. Demonstration of commitment to the organization’s mission
  4. True example of altruism

President’s Service Award Recipients:

2019 – Dr. David Fodor (IL)
2018 – Mary Ann Fischer (OH)
2017 – Frances Scanlon
2016 – Richard Condit (Lake Charles, LA)
2015 – Sharon Burch, (IA)
2014 – Jerry Tolson, Louisville, KY (JAN 2014 JAZZed: page 31)
2013 – Gene Perla, Easton, Pennsylvania (JAN 2013 JAZZed: page 21)
2012 – Larry Green, Columbia, Missouri (JAN 2012 JAZZed: page 12)
2011 – Steve Crissinger, Columbus, Ohio
2010 – Jim Widner, St. Louis Missouri

The John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award

The Jazz Education Network and Berklee College of Music collaborate to present the John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year award.

The award is named after legendary jazz educator John LaPorta who served as a distinguished professor at Berklee for more than three decades prior to his passing in 2004 and played a pivotal role in the earliest stage of formalized jazz education.

The award will recognize an outstanding elementary, middle, or high school educator with a focus on jazz education, who represents the highest standards of teaching and whose results in the classroom have brought distinction to their institution and their students.

Past Recipients

2019 – Thomas “TL” Lizotte, Cape Elizabeth, ME
2018 – Diane Downs, Louisville, KY
2017 – Dr. Robert Klevan, Pacific Grove, CA
2016 – José Antonio Diaz, Diaz Music Institute, Houston, TX
2015 – Janis Stockhouse, Blooming High School North, Bloomington, IN
2014 – Daniel Gregerman, Niles North High School, Skokie, IL (JAN 2014 JAZZed: page 31)
2013 – Davey Yarborough, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Washington D.C. (JAN 2013 JAZZed: page 18)
2012 – Bart Marantz, Booker T. Washington High School, Dallas, TX (JAN 2012 JAZZed: page 16)
2011 – Caleb Chapman, Crescent Super Band, Salt Lake City, UT (SEPT 2011 JAZZed: page 40)


Award Recipients prior to JEN

2008 – Don Cantwell, Retired from Whitesboro High School, Barneveld, NY
2007 – Bob Sinicrope, Milton Academy, Milton, MA (SEPT 2008 JAZZed: page 28)

Nomination Criteria - John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year

Eligibility Criteria for John LaPorta Educator of the Year Nominee

  • A practicing music educator — currently advancing the artistic lives of students in the classroom
  • Minimum of 5 years teaching experience (jazz context; elementary, middle, or high school setting)
  • Demonstration of student-centered engagement
  • Nominee represents the highest standards of jazz teaching, and results in the classroom have brought distinction to nominee’s institution and students

All information and letters of support are required to complete the application. Partially completed applications not accepted.

Deadline October 31, 5:00 p.m. (EST)