Without Live Music, A New Commission Fund Seeks To Help Jazz Artists

May 11, 2020
Originally published on May 12, 2020 2:54 pm

The cancellation of so many of the summer's live music events and festivals has been devastating for almost all musicians, but particularly for jazz artists who rely on touring venue over record sales and whose art is improvisational. A new group, called the Jazz Coalition, is looking to help.

"Many jazz musicians have no other sources of income," Brice Rosenbloom, one of the founders of the Jazz Coalition says. "We feel it's vital to remind musicians of their value and worth as creators, so we're launching the commission fund initiative to keep musicians working."

Around this time, Rosenbloom would usually be organizing this year's installment of New York City Winter Jazzfest. But now, he's re-directed his focus towards raising money for struggling musicians with the Jazz Coalition's Commission Fund.

Here's the idea: Donors give $100 or more, and can nominate a musician to potentially win a $1,000 commission. Then, a committee decides who gets the money, and names a winning artist who is tasked with creating a musical piece.

"We're asking artists to create a piece that is reflective of the times," Rosenbloom says. "The real goal here is that we're going to create a canon of new work that really represents our collective resilience and that can inspire and move us forward."

Grammy award-winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater is a member of the Jazz Coalition, and she thinks the fund is a great way to help musicians get through this time.

"It's healthy. It makes them feel worthwhile," she says. "And it could be the spark that that musician needs to move beyond this one piece."

Rosenbloom says the grants won't necessarily replace lost income from live performance, but can help out-of-work musicians continue to work on their art.

"We certainly are confident that it's going to boost morale and inspire them to keep working," he says.

Rosenbloom says the group has already raised over $70,000.

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This is jazz music in front of a live audience, which, for some aficionados, is almost the only way that jazz should be. But when we say live music, we mean it was live at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest last year, an event that was canceled this year. Brice Rosenbloom of a group called the Jazz Coalition found that news devastating.

BRICE ROSENBLOOM: Many jazz musicians have no other sources of income. We feel it's vital to remind the musicians of their value and their worth as creators. So we're launching the Commission Fund initiative to keep musicians working.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Rosenbloom normally organizes the New York City Winter Jazzfest. Now he's trying to raise money for musicians out of work. Here's his pitch - if you can donate $100 or more, you can also nominate a musician to potentially win $1,000 in commission. A committee decides who gets the money and commissions an artist to create a composition.

ROSENBLOOM: We're asking artists to create a piece that is reflective of the times. You know, the real goal here is that we're going to create a canon of new work that really represents our collective resilience and can help inspire and move us forward.

MARTIN: Grammy Award-winning singer Dee Dee Bridgewater approves.

DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER: It's healthy. It makes them feel worthwhile, you know, and it could be the spark that that musician needs to move beyond this one piece.

INSKEEP: Now, Rosenbloom knows a $1,000 grant is not going to pay the rent all year.

ROSENBLOOM: But we certainly are confident it's going to boost morale and inspire them to keep working.

INSKEEP: And to that end, they've already raised $70,000. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.