Jazz in the Time of Corona

by Todd Stoll

I am sure that none of us could have imagined how dramatically the world would have changed since my last missive. Nearly all of us are working from home, valiantly transferring our years of experience with face-to-face programming to an unknown and (for many) uncomfortable virtual world. Even more of us are without the work that supports our families, and on top of that, the accompanying fear of illness, lack of resources, and general feeling of extreme dread. Our jazz ecosystem has been reduced to near zero, and it is a supremely depressing time. So, this penultimate President’s message will not be some pie-in-the-sky dream for the optimistic resolution of our current predicament. Instead, I hope to impart some practical information and perhaps find some solace in this music we all love.

Jazz comes out of despair. From an oppressed and marginalized people comes this thing of exquisite beauty, grace, and hope that is our gift to the world. Our music has been the bulwark against many of our national tragedies — between the first recording of jazz in 1917 and now, our country has experienced WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, Korean War, the Civil Rights Movement, the upheaval of the late 60s, Vietnam, the Gulf War pt. I, 9/11, an ongoing Gulf War pt. 2, a national financial crisis, and now Covid-19. Through it all, jazz has expressed, soothed, and inspired a century of Americans facing adversity in a rapidly changing, and many times, terrifying world.

This is a time for generosity of spirit, kindness, and grace. Gracea word I feel is even more appropriate now than ever. Grace was my grandmother’s name and is my daughter’s middle name. Just the sound of it, the feeling of it, remains an important part of my life.

Grace for our families, our friends, our colleagues, our elected officials (difficult as it may be) and those we don’t know. Grace, in Christian terms, is the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God, the spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.  Now, without offending the ecumenical among us, replace the word “God” with your name, and “humans” with the names of those you interact with on a daily basis. Grace. It is a valuable part of our quarantine survival arsenal.

Jazz in needed now more than ever. As citizens, we need to reassert our fundamental values, and jazz reflects those in a way that is symbolic in this time. So many systems have failed us — economic, political, social. It is through our cultural identity that we reaffirm who we are and what we hold most sacred. Our art calls us to be the best of what we believe and who we are. Pops did it, so did Duke, Ella, Dizzy, Mary Lou, Benny, Monk, Trane, and so many others. It is the legacy of our music, and it calls us to a greater understanding of ourselves and others.

As I see us all maneuvering in the online space, remember to grant each other some grace (and save a little for your internet provider). We will get through this together and hopefully come out a little better on the other side.

Here is a link to resources for artists. Please feel free to forward it to those most in need. http://jazzednet.org/musician-artist-funding-resources/

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