Events honoring jazz are planned throughout the U.S. in April, designated Jazz Appreciation Month by the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian in 2002. Intended to celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz, JAM is intended to encourage people of all ages and cultures to participate in jazz– to study the music, attend concerts, listen to live and recorded jazz, read about jazz, and more. And as of 2012, we now have International Jazz Day at the end of Jazz Appreciation Month, on April 30, sponsored by the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role in uniting people from around the world. The day includes a global concert as well as hundreds of designated performances across the continents.
But you don’t have to attend a specific tribute concert or fly to the U.N. to show your appreciation for jazz. And you don’t really need a designated day or month to consider the importance of jazz to your own life and the larger community. But April is as good a time as any to consider what you can do to support one of our nation’s cultural treasures—and one that needs more support.
Listen to jazz! As easy as it gets, simply tune in to your favorite jazz radio station or online broadcast source. In the Twin Cities area, that means KBEM 88.5 fm or KFAI 90.3 fm. Tuning in to divergent programming throughout the day and night, you can hear new and classic recordings, interviews with musicians, live jazz calendars, and, on KBEM, some of the NPR jazz programs (like Piano Jazz, Jazz Night in America). And be sure to remember your favorite stations during their pledge drives!
Buy jazz! Choose your music, via CD, DVD, vinyl, iTunes, whatever media you prefer. Buying music supports the musicians, the producers, the labels, etc. that keep the music going.
Listen to live jazz! On any night of the week, sometimes even earlier in the day, you can find live jazz of all styles within a short drive. Where can you find out what’s going on? Check the Twin Cities online live jazz calendar on the KBEM home page; listen to The Lead Sheet on KBEM 88.5 FM every Thursday (4:40 pm) and Friday (8:20 am), also archived under KBEM on Demand on the Jazz 88 home page at http://jazz88.mpls.k12.mn.us/ ; see the full Lead Sheet on www.jazzink.com; look at the Jazz Police website; listen to KBEM; google your favorite clubs and concert venues. Listening to live music, and watching the musicians communicate, provides a much deeper experience than merely listening to recordings on radio or sonic devices. And attending live performances supports the venues that present music and the artists who perform.
Introduce a friend to jazz. This month—or every month!—introduce someone to the music you love. Too often we hear “Oh, I just don’t like jazz….” Considering the wide range of music classified as “jazz,” it seems unlikely that someone would dislike the entirety of jazz. More likely, their exposure has been limited. Maybe they don’t like Dixieland but might fall in love with Coltrane; maybe Coltrane is just too “out” but what about swinging big bands? Maybe Return to Forever is too electrified but what about the lyricism of Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett? If you know what your friends like to listen to, you can probably figure out a jazz performance that would appeal. Find something close by, inexpensive or free, and suggest a musical adventure! (The upcoming Twin Cities Jazz Festival at Mears Park in St. Paul, June 23-25, is a perfect opportunity to encourage a reluctant friend or relative to check out some jazz. It’s free, it’s outdoors, and the range of jazz is immense.) For a listing of clubs offering free and inexpensive jazz, see the Jazz Police article, “Free and Cheap Jazz.”
Introduce a youngster to jazz. Music seems to have natural appeal to children, and there are many opportunities here to find an event that is aimed at youth and families. Check out the weekend offerings at MacPhail Center for Music and programs at area libraries, museums, schools, etc. Look for jazz events that involve demonstration, hands-on activities, etc. A lot of high schools have spring jazz band concerts – seeing older kids perform can be very inspiring to future musicians and future listeners.
Volunteer to help an organization devoted to jazz. Locally there is the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education, Walker West Music Academy, Twin Cities Jazz Festival, KBEM, KFAI, your local school music program, and more. These groups often need volunteers to help with special events, fund raisers, etc. Donations are always welcome but so is your help!
Spread the word about a jazz event. Post a message on Face Book, Twitter, your blog, whatever your social media outlet. Let your friends know where you plan to go, what band you plan to hear, and invite them to join you. After the event, post a comment about it, especially if you would do it again!
Educate yourself –and others–about jazz. Find a class through community education; download lessons and materials from online jazz education sites; check the library or your favorite book or CD source for some new music or books about jazz; attend any open workshops, master classes, public rehearsals, etc. Even if you do not have much of a foundation in music, you can learn quite a bit from reading, listening, and observing instruction. If you are an educator– not necessarily a music educator– you can find a lot of ideas and materials online to bring jazz into the classroom. (For some accessible online materials and media archives, visit the Jazz at Lincoln Center, National Music Education Association, and the Smithsonian Jazz websites.)
Suggest jazz artists and events to venues. Tell club owners what you want to see and hear. Contact curators of events at area concert halls to suggest jazz artists for their performance series. Let them know there is an audience for jazz!
Support jazz musicians at all levels. Put something in that tip jar! Get out as often as you can to hear new talents as well as the veterans, at new venues as well as the established ones. Add your name or email address to musicians’ mailing lists. Visit musicians’ websites. “Like” jazz artists on Facebook! Support projects on sites like KickStarter, ArtistShare, etc.
Happy Jazz Appreciation Month! Happy Jazzin’!!