The nominees were chosen by a final jury consisting of, among others, musician and composer Terri Lyne Carrington, founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute. COURTESY PHOTO
Next Jazz Legacy, a collaborative program between the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice and New Music USA, is about to award its first six grants to women and non-binary improvisers in jazz. The program, launched in November 2021, “aims to inspire change in the jazz community, providing early-career artists with long-term apprenticeships, financial support and promotion.”
The nominees were chosen this year by a final jury consisting of musician and songwriter Terri Lyne Carrington, founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute; trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire; saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón; singer and songwriter Cassandra Wilson; flautist and composer Nicole Mitchell; and trumpeter and composer Sean Jones.
Artists chosen to be part of the Next Jazz Legacy will receive a $10,000 grant, a one-year performance apprenticeship, a two-way mutual mentorship program, access to peer-led learning cohorts by Carrington, e-learning courses from Berklee, and a variety of promotional opportunities, from a series of podcasts and artist playlists developed with media partners to live showcases with national broadcasters.
Aja Wood, executive director of the Berklee-based Institute, told Banner, “On the ground, there’s a story of women and non-binary musicians having fewer opportunities to do the things that elevate the musicality. There is an amorphous work environment and no HR department. We want to help fill the void and remove unnecessary barriers: misogyny, racism.
Data presented by Next Jazz Legacy, citing NPR’s 2019 Jazz Critics poll, indicates that only 16% of the band’s core personnel are women, 58% of jazz albums have no female musicians, and only 7% of critics who contributed to the poll were women. .
Through collaboration with existing power structures, Next Jazz Legacy intends to accelerate the inevitable changes. Carrington writes that the program “amplifies and responds to the need for all jazz masters to contribute to (and understand the need for) a more equitable jazz future. The people who have benefited the most from patriarchal structures are precisely the people who should help us solve the problem.
A fundamental element of Next Jazz Legacy is the mentorship it provides, a form of learning and training that has been inadequate.
Vanessa Reed, President and CEO of New Music USA, reinforces the goals and values put forth by Wood and Carrington. In 2020, New Music USA launched a comparable program for filmmaking called Reel Change, which aims to address the fact that the vast majority of films are scored by white men. The program supports “composers from diverse backgrounds who have been marginalized in filmmaking.”
It was through a series of discussions between Carrington and Reed that Next Jazz Legacy has become a reality. A key element of the program provides the layers of support, in addition to funding, that create a community of relationships that foster both personal and professional growth.
“Our top priorities are to increase resources, build community, and increase advocacy and equity,” says Reed.
Next Jazz Legacy receives support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and notes “its gratitude to Joseph A. and Nancy Meli Walker for their generosity”.