A Fireside Chat with Publicist Don Lucoff
David Letterman hates jazz and that's why you don't see any on the show. It all starts with the people at the top in television. Television is still the most powerful medium in our culture. I believe that if we had jazz on television more regularly, exposed to a wider audience, jazz would be in a lot better place. I've been fighting that battle as long as I've been in the business. Some years is better than others. It really depends on who is in positions of power. I've just seen an ebb and flow. It's not getting worse, but it's not getting better. It just depends on who is in the driver's seat at the specific show. But I'm always knocking on those doors.
FJ: Break out the crystal ball and give me your take on the future of the music?
DL: Well, I think the overall future is good as long as the curriculum becomes updated and modified, which it is. Jazz education is playing a very important role with what IAJE does as far as overseeing and administrating certain curriculums and certain funds and certain scholarship opportunities. They are able to really integrate the donors and the recipients and create great opportunities.
The NEA Jazz Masters Program, that's heavy. That's a program that has been running almost ten years now, where three jazz artists are selected by the NEA as Jazz Masters. They're given a significant sum of money. It's a great reward system. What Wynton is doing with his band academy, where teachers from all over the country are coming to him for guidance and instruction. This is going to happen in one place this year in Aspen, Colorado. This has never happened before. Usually, he will go on the road and if he has time, he will do a clinic. This is an actual program where important jazz educators are going to come to him to learn how to better educate their students.
All these kind of programs, the Essentially Ellington Program, where high school kids, different high schools around the country have the opportunity to play Ellington's music in a very high-spirited forum and be rewarded for it. There is a competition that takes place at Lincoln Center in May. Eighteen hundred and eighty-seven schools filled out an application for that program this year. They will send in tapes. When they send in that application, Lincoln Center then sends them out complete authorized transcripts of Ellington's music, so the kids learn the tune, play the tunes, record the tunes, and send the tapes into Lincoln Center and of those eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, fifteen of the programs will be chosen to come to New York and play in a competition. It started off five years ago as a local. Then it grew regionally and now, it's national for the first time. That's progress.
More kids are getting turned onto jazz. Whether it's through Ellington or whether it's through Bob Marley and they get to jazz that way. My kid got to jazz through Marley and Dave Matthews. I know kids that have gotten into jazz through Dave Matthews, through the Grateful Dead, whatever it is. David Murray working with the Grateful Dead. The Phish thing with Medeski, Martin, and Wood, that connection, which links them to Charlie Hunter, which links them to Scofield, Pat Metheny. Fusion is good, if the music is good because it helps grow the audience.
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