Bill McFarlin: IAJE's Executive Director
“ You have so many of the world's greatest artists rubbing shoulders with students and teachers. You've got the industry there. You've got the whole world of jazz under one roof. ”
All About Jazz: Does the rapid decline of non-vocal jazz sales influence jazz education?
Bill McFarlin: We want to see a healthy economy for jazz. We want to see that we're growing the audience for jazz. At any given time, we estimate that there are a million students of jazz, whether it is in elementary, junior high, high school, college, community centers, participating in a jazz ensemble or taking a jazz history course. There are a huge number of people around the world that are actively engaged in learning about this music.
You would assume that that would translate into increased record sales, which is one of the barometers of growing the audience. I don't think there is any question that we're growing the audience for jazz more and more each year. I think the increase of jazz festivals, at this point, any major American city that doesn't have a jazz festival is an exception and not the rule. The only thing that I can think of is that the advent of electronic downloading has marginalized record sales across the board. While the market share in the record industry for jazz has been flat, interest in listening to jazz has grown.
One of the things that we're really focusing on is that we recently acquired another association, Jazz Alliance International, which now is working under the auspices of IAJE and it's focusing on audience development, research, and advocacy. It is really looking at what we can do to translate the growing audience for jazz, which there is no question that the audience is growing, hopefully, into increased record sales, which is so critical for the artists.
AAJ: How can jazz educators illustrate the validity of the music when in this country's public schools, music programs are budgetary frontline casualties?
BM: You've seen the grassroots coalitions that have been put together to reinforce the fact that arts are basic. It isn't just music. It is all of the arts and the impact that it has on helping to create better citizens. Participation in the arts stimulates creative thinking. It helps develop better cognitive thinking.
There are a range of studies that have supported that. There is so many reasons why it is important that students have exposure to the arts. Specifically, as it relates to music in schools, we work very closely with the National Association for Music Education. They have 80,000 members that are music teachers across the United States. Their members are in the classroom everyday. So we are working with them to re-enforce the standards of why music is an important part of a child's early development.
One of the things we are doing with MENC is that MENC has action kits and studies of empirical data that music advocates in the community can take and utilize it for grassroots efforts for their school board. When you are fighting for the survival of music programs in the schools, national organization can do a lot of things, but the people that carry the big stick are the taxpayers in the community and the parents of the students. They have to be heard. They're the real people that are going to make a difference. What we try to do is make sure that we give them the tools to be effective. The website is www.menc.org .
People can log on and find resources to help support and justify the importance of general music programs, of instrumental high school and junior high school programs, of all of those things.
AAJ: What can an attendee expect from the 32nd Annual IAJE Conference (Long Beach)?
BM: If somebody is a rookie and they are attending the conference for the first time, the first thing that they can expect is for their life to change forever, in my opinion. I don't want to be melodramatic about it, but it certainly will be more than they can anticipate because it really is the Super Bowl of jazz. You have so many of the world's greatest artists rubbing shoulders with students and teachers. You've got the industry there. You've got the whole world of jazz under one roof.
One of the things that former NEA Chairman Bill Ivy said about the IAJE Conference is that it is the only conference in any of the arts that brings together artists, educators, and the industry, all working together. That is one of the things that is really unique about the conference. If you are going as an enthusiast, the thing that is great about going to IAJE is that there are 7,000 people there from 40 countries. So you're going to be exposed to types of jazz, genres of jazz, or hybrids of jazz that you've probably never heard before.
You will hear a group from Israel or you will hear a group from Finland in addition to all the great American artists. You have the opportunity to see how jazz has evolved into a world music. The second thing is there are so many performance venues happening simultaneously that there is really something there for everyone. I just have no doubt that everyone attending the conference will find their niche. The third thing is the opportunity to walk through the exhibit hall, because you have 80,000 square feet of exhibits representing the whole spectrum from records to instruments to jazz festivals, is a real kick.
Last but not least is we put a lot of emphasis on the history of music and the opportunity to honor jazz masters. This year our Jazz Masters will include L.A. based Kenny Burrell, Slide Hampton, Paquito D'Rivera, Shirley Horn, Artie Shaw, all will be honored by the National Endowment for the Arts and they will each be getting a $25,000 honorarium. We are shooting a television special hosted by Ramsey Lewis and Nancy Wilson. It is a chance, if you care about jazz, to see the masters of this music up close and personal. All of these people will be participating in panel sessions. They are very accessible.