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)?