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Next Jazz Legacy, a new three-year program, aims to open apprenticeships to more women and non-binary artists

Drummer, bandleader and educator Terri Lyne Carrington, recognized as a 2021 NEA Jazz Master.
Jonathan Chimene
Drummer, bandleader and educator Terri Lyne Carrington, recognized as a 2021 NEA Jazz Master.

When Terri Lyne Carrington was coming up as a preternaturally gifted young drummer, all of her available mentors were men — starting with the heavyweights she met through her father, in and around the Boston area. She was fortunate in that so many of those jazz elders, like Wayne Shorter and Jack DeJohnette, were purely supportive of her talent; as she shared in a recent episode of Jazz Night in America, it was possible for her to find her way in a man's world.

For many others, jazz mentorship has often been a more troubled proposition — a salient fact that factors into Carrington's work as founder of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. This morning, the Institute and New Music USA announced the formation of Next Jazz Legacy For a More Inclusive Jazz Future, a program designed to change the playing field by increasing apprenticeship opportunities for women and non-binary musicians.

Supported with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program will run over the next three years, and sponsor a total of 20 individuals. The first class of Next Jazz Legacy grantees will comprise six musicians, chosen by a panel chaired by Carrington; applications are open through Nov. 29.

In an announcement of the program this morning, New Music USA cited a recent analysis of the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, which confirmed that women have constituted a small percentage of the personnel on albums receiving critical acclaim. Appraising the situation, Carrington explains: "Next Jazz Legacy amplifies and addresses the need for all musicians, practitioners, and professionals in jazz to contribute to a more equitable jazz future."

Vanessa Reed, president and CEO of New Music USA, notes that more than half of the organizations grant funding already goes to women and non-binary artists. "However, we know that some of the inequities in our community can't be resolved with grant funding alone," she adds. "Next Jazz Legacy addresses this by providing experience on the road, promotion and opportunities for participants to learn and grow with other artists at similar stages in their career."

Each Next Jazz Legacy grantee will receive $10,000 and be set up with a one-year apprenticeship (involving both musical and professional consultation). The program will also feature online coursework at Berklee and a range of promotional support.

Candidates must be residents of the U.S., fully vaccinated, unsigned by a record label, and not enrolled in an academic institution during the duration of the program. The program's inaugural class will be announced at the top of next year.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.