The 2017 Jazz Masters are in the history book. With threats to its funding, will the National Endowment for the Arts itself be history? First, a recap of #NEAJazz17.
The celebration kicked off with the NEA Jazz Masters Listening Party at NPR, moderated by Jason Moran. The Jazz Masters and Fitz Gitler (representing his father) were joined in conversation by musicians whose lives they have influenced. They generously – and humorously – shared stories about their musical journey.
On April 3, the NEA held a tribute concert in the Jazz Masters’ honor at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
While joy filled the air, there are some discordant notes. If the NEA is defunded, the Class of 2017 may be the last Jazz Masters. The New York Times reported:
President Trump’s budget proposal last month called for eliminating the endowment entirely — the first time any president has proposed such a step. While some members of Congress in his own Republican Party have opposed the move, it is a reminder of the agency’s vulnerability.
Created in 1965, the endowment provides funding to arts organizations, including jazz projects that are supported with dozens of grants each year. It also sends nearly half of its funding budget to regional arts organizations that disperse funds themselves.
The NEA can’t advocate for its own survival. So, as jazz and film critic Gary Giddins noted, it’s “jazz advocacy of the hip, by the hip and for the hip shall not perish from the Earth.”
Truth is, NEA is about more than jazz.