Thursday, October 11, 2012

Not Dead....Not Even Sick - Dennis

Is Jazz on the critical list?

Well-known Jazz Critic and author Nat Hentoff has a guest editorial in a recent edition of JAZZed Magazine, "Jazz Revolution Vs. Radio Station Slashing Jazz." He talks about the recent decision by Boston's WBGH-FM to dramatically reduce its jazz programming.

His main point is the disconnect between media and retail's general attitude toward jazz, summarized as "...audience is diminishing, as evidenced by lower audience ratings and sales, and fewer young people are interested in jazz," and the fact that there is rising interest in high school, college and university jazz bands and programs.

Sax player Rod Pierson works with some Linn Mar
students as a part of KCCK's Corridor Jazz Project.
Certainly, that's something we see right here in Iowa. Jazz is thriving in our schools, both at the high school and college level. Some of the most dedicated jazz fans I know are under twenty-five. A young friend of mine posted a picture of his tickets to see Brad Mehldau with the caption "Best. Weekend. Ever."

And I was ambushed by a couple of other college students last summer, demanding to know why a particular artist (whose name would only be familiar to a very knowledgeable fan), who had previously announced an appearance at the Iowa City Jazz Festival, had cancelled (more money to play in Europe, if you're curious).

I was amazed they'd even remembered the original announcement.

Hentoff mentions another article in a similar vein by a friend of mine from Columbia, Missouri, Jon Poses. Jon directs an outstanding jazz presenting and education organization, "We Always Swing." He is worried that the loss of jazz radio shows on big stations in places like Boston and L.A. will echo through smaller communities. "... in herd-like manner, it could give license to smaller-market stations to do the same: 'If WGBH is doing it, maybe we should, too.'"

Of course, the smallest of the small is not a part of that herd. Iowa's Creative Corridor is by far the smallest metropolitan area in the nation that supports a full-time jazz station, and if KCCK's performance during our most recent pledge drive is any indication, our community is committed to making sure generic Internet and satellite stations won't be the sole home for jazz on the air moving forward.

Back in Boston, jazz fans actually staged a "funeral" outside the WGBH studios to protest the programming cuts. Attendance was strong, although at last report, the station doesn't intend to restore any of the programs.

Do me a favor, though, and don't tell any of the 300 jazz band students we'll work with in the Corridor Jazz Project this year, or the 5000 elementary kids who will groove to Schoolhouse Jazz, that jazz is dead, OK?

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