Organizations are trying to fill the void in the midst of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE)’s recent collapse.
In April, the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) officially closed its doors and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, following a disappointing turnout at last year’s conference in Toronto. The show only attracted about 40% of the event’s usual attendance, which is estimated at about 7,000 in a good year.
“Of all my 33 years in education, this year has been the most difficult, the most challenging of my professional career,” says Mary Jo Papich, who was set to take over as the organization’s first female president in July. “There are many things that caused the collapse. If I could put my one finger on it, I would, but it was a combination of things. It really blindsided us and hit us pretty hard this spring when it all started to fall.”
IAJE’s 2009 conference has been cancelled; however, some state-level IAJE branches plan to continue operations as normal. “We have voted to continue jazz education activities in New Jersey,” says Jeffrey Lesser, president of the New Jersey Association for Jazz Education, formerly the New Jersey branch of IAJE. “We’re changing our name, but we’re going to continue doing what we’re doing for kids and jazz education.”
Educators remain hopeful about the state of jazz education and look forward to what’s ahead. “I think jazz is as popular as it’s been for many years,” Lesser says. “Obviously it’s not the popular music of the day as it was in the 1930s and 40s, but I think there’s plenty of market for jazz and plenty of market for music in general. I don’t see this as indicative of an industry trend; I do see it as indicative of an economic trend.”
In the void after IAJE, two groups have unveiled new efforts to promote jazz education. “There’s a definite networking opportunity, especially for teachers and students,” Papich says. “At [IAJE’s] annual conference and at other events we would have, it was an opportunity for a teacher from wherever to come together and work with jazz artists or jazz educators—qualified, well-known people. … Hundreds of young students benefited from my time at IAJE. I would have never had those connections or dreamed of having those experiences if it hadn’t been for IAJE.”
Reston, Va.-based MENC: The National Association for Music Education recently unveiled its new Jazz Initiative while Papich and others recently formed the Jazz Education Network.
MENC’s website now hosts a network for jazz enthusiasts and educators to connect through forums and learn about jazz news nationwide. “MENC is committed to ensuring that the jazz education community is provided with the important programs and services they need to provide quality jazz education programs for their students,” says Earl Hurrey, MENC deputy executive director. “MENC gathered a distinguished group of jazz educators … to discuss a plan of action. We will continue to work with these and other jazz educators to fill the void left by the demise of IAJE. Much more concrete steps will be taken in the near future to advance this initiative.”
In turn, the Jazz Education Network formed after a meeting between 35 leaders in the jazz industry in Chicago. It plans to focus on advancing and expanding jazz education and performance opportunities.
“It’s a new organization aimed at networking in the jazz arts community,” Papich says. “Its member-driven, member-led. We’re looking at a fresh start for the future of jazz education. We promise an organization that is honest, authentic, dedicated and passionate about representing its members.”