Updates to International Jazz Day, April 30

COVID-19 pandemic necessitates changes to 9th annual worldwide celebration of jazz

Call for artists and fans around the world to self-create video messages to be streamed worldwide on International Jazz Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Due to ongoing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, the International Jazz Day 2020 Global Host Celebration in Cape Town and other cities across South Africa, including the All-Star Global Concert on April 30, will not take place as scheduled. This decision has been undertaken in response to guidance issued by government and public health officials in South Africa and reflects the high priority that the Institute, its partners and local organizers place on the health and safety of all participating musicians, staff, affiliates and the public.

International Jazz Day would not be possible without the thousands of independent organizers around the world who faithfully help bring the message of this unique music into their communities each year on April 30. We strongly encourage our partners to follow all local public health directives and government guidelines when considering whether to go ahead with an International Jazz Day program. Many partners have already rescheduled their programs for a later date, pending the abatement of the current global pandemic. These postponed events will be gratefully recognized as official celebrations of International Jazz Day.

For over a century, jazz has been a unifying force, rallying people around the world through the universal language of music regardless of the distance between them. With this in mind, International Jazz Day will still go forward on April 30. Though large-scale public concerts, colloquia and other gatherings that have for nearly a decade been a hallmark of this celebration, this year we are encouraging organizers to minimize viral transmission by celebrating at home. Resources, information and ideas for celebrating can be found at jazzday.com.

To allow our amazing community of jazz lovers, students and local International Jazz Day leaders a special opportunity to connect with each other, on April 30, the Institute and its partners will be organizing a virtual forum featuring acclaimed artists and webcasts of exclusive content, offered free of charge. Further details will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Institute extends a special invitation to all of its partners to submit smartphone videos, audio recordings and other virtual expressions of participation to show solidarity with everyone affected by this challenging situation. Submissions will be featured in a free live stream available worldwide as part of the virtual programming on April 30.

Herbie Hancock, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Co-Chair of International Jazz Day, said, “These are unprecedented times for world citizens and we are most grateful for the support, understanding, and partnership of our Jazz Day community. Armed with optimism, patience and grace, we’ll work through these challenges as families, communities, countries and as a stronger united world. Now more than ever before, let’s band together and spread the ethics of Jazz Day’s global movement around the planet and use this as a golden opportunity for humankind to reconnect especially in the midst of all this isolation and uncertainty.”

Our deep gratitude and appreciation go to the South African Department of Sports, Arts and Culture; South African Tourism; the South African National Commission for UNESCO; the City of Cape Town, the SPIN Foundation; the many local partners and community leaders in South Africa; and the worldwide International Jazz Day community for their efforts in support of International Jazz Day 2020.

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National Performing Arts High Schools Students Perform at 2020 JEN Conference in New Orleans

Combos from three partner schools in the Institute’s National Performing Arts High Schools Jazz Program participated in the annual Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference in New Orleans on January 8 and 9, 2020. The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) Jazz Quartet and a combo of top students from the Baltimore School for the Arts and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts each performed a set, sharing a bill with distinguished artists including Tia Fuller, Sean Jones, Dick Oatts, Terell Stafford, Chucho Valdés, and Mark Whitfield.

“I’m so proud of the way these students performed and comported themselves,” said Dr. JB Dyas, the Institute’s Vice President for Education and Curriculum Development. “They have made incredible progress since the last time I worked with them just a few months ago!”

A man stands in the foreground playing his trumpet with a group of students, also playing instruments.
Internationally renowned jazz trumpeter Jon Faddis performs with students from the Baltimore School for the Arts and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts at the 2020 JEN Conference in New Orleans

Remembering jazz giants

Contributing to the ongoing centennial celebrations for the late jazz icons Charlie Parker and Dave Brubeck, the ChiArts Quartet performed noteworthy standards by both artists, including Parker’s “Donna Lee” and “Anthropology” and Brubeck’s “Koto Song” and “Here Comes McBride.” The Baltimore/New Orleans combo performed a set of early New Orleans jazz tunes, including “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” They incorporated modern twists in the style of Gumbo Nouveau, the noted album by New Orleans’ own Nicholas Payton. Internationally renowned jazz trumpeter and Institute teaching artist Jon Faddis joined the group for its finale, Bourbon Street Parade.

“My hat’s off to not only these talented students but, especially, their excellent directors, Anthony Bruno, Ed Hrybyk and Michael Pellera,” added Dyas. “They keep producing superlative young players, year after year, reassuring all of us that the future of our music is in good hands.”

Four students playing jazz instruments perform on a stage with a black backdrop.
The Chicago High School for the Arts Jazz Quartet Performs at the 2020 JEN Conference in New Orleans. From left: Jaden Berkman (senior), Claudia Easterwood (junior), Leo Milano (freshman), Simon Burke-Kaiser (senior)

Remembering Jimmy Heath

The Institute is heartbroken to learn of the passing of Institute trustee Jimmy Heath, a giant of jazz who left an indelible mark on the music he loved and helped shape. At the age of 93, Heath was a living legend who bore that mantle with characteristic good humor and humility.

In more than 70 years on the scene, he appeared on over 100 records, penned over 125 compositions—including the jazz standards “CTA” and “Gingerbread Man”—and appeared with countless jazz icons including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Slide Hampton, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Wynton  Marsalis and many others. Heath, alongside brothers Percy and Tootie, presided over nearly every era of note in jazz history, from big band swing to bebop to post-bop and beyond—always staying true to his signature sound.

Heath spent 20 years as Professor of Music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College and was a passionate standard bearer for jazz education through his over three decades of work and advocacy on the Institute’s Board of Trustees. Always giving generously of his time, wisdom, and inimitable style on the saxophone, he served on the judging panels for all but one of the Institute’s Saxophone Competitions, helping to launch the careers of talents such as Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Jon Irabagon, and Melissa Aldana–the first woman instrumentalist to take first prize at an Institute Competition. He appeared at the inaugural celebration of International Jazz Day in 2012 at United Nations Headquarters in New York, fittingly keeping stride with other musical icons like Hugh Masekela and Stevie Wonder. But perhaps most significant was his dedication to serving as an artist in residence at the Institute’s Jazz Performance program, teaching and imparting priceless insights and mentorship to the next generation even into his tenth decade. 

In recognition of his tireless work to preserve and perpetuate jazz, Heath was presented with the Maria Fisher Founder’s Award in 1994.

Most recently, Heath performed at our 2018 Piano Competition in Washington, D.C., joining a stage brimming with talents that he helped nurture and inspire. With his wit, wisdom and effortless musical mastery, the jazz world and this Institute will never be quite the same without Jimmy.