[JPL] Goin' to Chicago

Steve Schwartz steve_schwartz at wgbh.org
Wed Apr 13 06:58:36 EDT 2005

Companies infuse the Chicago scene with cash
Landmark effort to benefit art form

By Howard Reich
Tribune arts critic
Published April 10, 2005

For most of a century, jazz has survived on the kindness of strangers:
clubgoers, barflies and other night-lifers have provided the cash that kept
the music playing.
Though the musicians typically have worked at the margins of American
culture, playing mostly low-paying gigs at tiny nightspots, the art form
somehow has kept swinging robustly, despite often dire financial
But in an unprecedented development, jazz -- specifically Chicago jazz -- is
about to get a large infusion of funding and opportunity.
Three Chicago-area corporations and one local foundation have joined forces
to pour an estimated $1.5 million into the city's jazz scene in the next
three years, with possibly more money to come during that time. Boeing Co.,
Bank One and Kraft Food have teamed with the non-profit Chicago Community
Trust to create the Chicago Jazz Partnership, which will begin funneling
approximately $500,000 into the city's jazz scene this year, with hopes of
expanding that support in years to come.
A united stand
Although each of the organizations has underwritten jazz concerts in
Chicago, this all-for-one effort is different. After 18 months of
discussions, the funders at these high-profile Chicago institutions decided
that they could enhance their impact on the city -- and dramatically enrich
Chicago's already vibrant jazz scene -- by pooling their efforts.
The first results of their work will be unveiled this summer, with a series
of artistically ambitious, free-admission concerts in Millennium Park,
featuring key Chicago performers collaborating with major players from
around the world. Among the highlights, Chicago vocalist Kurt Elling will
team with elder masters Jon Hendricks, Mark Murphy and Sheila Jordan on July
21; Angel Melendez's Grammy-nominated, Chicago-based 911 Mambo Orchestra
will appear with Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez and Perez's father, the
exceptional singer Danilo Perez Sr. on July 28; and trumpeter Orbert Davis
will lead his sprawling Chicago Jazz Philharmonic in a genre-defying
collaboration with avant-garde musicians of the Chicago-based Association
for the Advancement of Creative Musicians on Aug. 29.
The Millennium Park series -- titled "Made in Chicago: A Jazz Celebration"
-- will announce to the city, and to the rest of the jazz world, that an
experiment in supporting a distinctly American music has begun.
But the backers of the plan stress that their campaign is designed not
simply to nurture jazz but to add firepower to a distinct brand of the
music: Chicago jazz.
"The idea is to provide exposure to Chicago jazz to new audiences in our own
city," says Warren K. Chapman, president of the Bank One Foundation.
That goal, however, is not merely an expression of hometown pride, even if
each of Chapman's colleagues in the Chicago Jazz Partnership is a passionate
fan of the music of this city.
More important, when the members of the partnership began studying the
market, they discovered a remarkable phenomenon that may be unique to jazz
in Chicago. After compiling a range of data, they learned that the audience
for jazz in Chicago is far larger than many observers realize, yet funding
for it is disproportionately minuscule.
Specifically, by drawing market-research data from the National Endowment
for the Arts and other sources, the Chicago Jazz Partnership realized that
the local jazz audience can be estimated at 750,000 to 1 million and
probably is twice that size, says Jim Newcomb, a community investor at
Bottom of the barrel
Yet revenues for jazz in Chicago remain tiny here. While individual
organizations such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, in New York, earned
approximately $40 million in 2003, and SFJAZZ, in San Francisco took in
about $4.8 million, the entire non-profit jazz scene in Chicago earned about
$4 million.
Within Chicago, the jazz scene gets short shrift, financially. While the
Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra each earn annual revenues
exceeding $40 million (partly in charitable contributions), Chicago's
non-profit jazz scene generates 10 percent of that, even though the data
shows that the jazz audience is equal to or larger than its classical
counterpart, says Newcomb.
Overall, ticket revenue, donations and musicians' fees are all starkly lower
for jazz than for classical music.
"All of this tells me that the jazz scene in Chicago is being underserved,"
adds Newcomb.
"All of us in the Jazz Partnership had a suspicion that Chicago jazz had
more audience than was generally known, and we all had the belief that there
wasn't enough funding attention being paid to it.
"But when we saw the numbers, it was jaw-dropping."
The reasons for that are as complex as they are ingrained.
For starters, jazz flourished as a popular dance music into the 1940s but
eventually evolved into a somewhat more rarefied art that could benefit from
philanthropic support.
But charitable contributions have leaned toward well-established, classical
"So, in a non-profit sense, jazz is still young," says Newcomb. "Classical
music in Chicago, for example, has been getting philanthropic support for
more than a century."
Furthermore, jazz -- a music born of African-American culture -- was long
excluded from the social-corporate network that has supported European music
institutions, such as the symphony and opera.
"Support mostly doesn't go to historically black organizations," says Amina
Dickerson, who heads corporate giving for Kraft Foods. "If you talk to the
musicians, they say that race is indeed a reason that support doesn't flow
to jazz."
Jazz long has been perceived as entertainment rather than art, owing,
perhaps, to its mythic origins in New Orleans brothels and its high
commercial profile during the big-band era of the 1930s and '40s. The
history of the music, and its enduring image as a nightclub attraction, has
not inspired corporations and foundations to send a great deal of money its
"There's an inertia factor," says Newcomb. "People are creatures of habit,
they tend to do things that they've done before, and that's true of
foundations and corporations, as well," which helps explain why funders
typically do not look to jazz.
But in the case of the Chicago Jazz Partnership, transcending old patterns
was precisely what all of the members wanted to do.
The Chicago Community Trust already had given so much to classical music and
dance, "our board wanted us to diversify into jazz" and other uncharted
territory, says Kassie Davis, a senior program officer.
With Kraft wanting to reach young audiences, Bank One hoping to reach across
a broad social spectrum and Boeing aiming to build on its ongoing jazz
initiatives, the Chicago Jazz Partnership by early this year was ready to
Newcomb shrewdly contacted two of the city's top jazz programmers, Michael
Orlove of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Lauren Deutsch of
the non-profit Jazz Institute of Chicago, and the two began devising dream
High-profile launch
At the same time, Millennium Park executive director Helen Doria was in the
midst of planning this summer's lineup and hooked up with Orlove, Deutsch
and the Chicago Jazz Partnership.
By February, all of the parties had begun to conceive a high-profile way to
launch the Chicago Jazz Partnership: a series of concerts at Chicago's most
celebrated urban space.
It's worth noting, however, that the Chicago Jazz Partnership is more a
confluence of jazz interests than a concrete entity. There's no single pool
of money, for instance, with each of the partners contributing as much or as
little to a particular event or initiative as it chooses.
Nor is the consortium limited to its current members. All of the parties
plan to encourage other organizations and individual donors to join the mix,
thereby increasing the amount of money that could be contributed to jazz
performance, education and infrastructure (meaning staffing and development
of Chicago's jazz organizations).
"We've come up with a whole new model for funding," says Chicago Community
Trust's Davis, "loose and informal, like jazz."

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