[JPL] IAJE jazz gathering, planned for Seattle, is canceled

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Fri Apr 18 12:12:41 EDT 2008


American jazz gathering, planned for Seattle, is canceled

By Paul de Barros
Seattle Times jazz critic
The most important American jazz gathering of the year, scheduled to take
place in Seattle in January, has been canceled because its presenter is
declaring bankruptcy.

In what is being described as a "perfect storm" of bad luck, unchecked
growth, fundraising and management failures, the International Association
for Jazz Education (IAJE) ‹ an important link to Seattle's successful school
jazz-band scene ‹ has collapsed.

According to IAJE's legal counsel, Alan Bergman, it will go into Chapter 7
bankruptcy and be turned over to a trustee, its assets parceled out to

A letter from the group's president, Chuck Owen, is scheduled to go out to
members as early as today, announcing the bankruptcy ‹ and essentially the
dissolution ‹ of the 40-year-old organization.

"It's a dark day," said band director Clarence Acox, whose award-winning
Garfield High School jazz band has performed at IAJE's gathering four times.

"It's one of the best jazz events in the world, for the performances by
great musicians, clinics, meetings, a place for people to network and
exchange ideas. It was the one event when all the people in jazz could get
together and have fellowship."

Roosevelt High School band director Scott Brown, whose band has played the
conference as well, agreed.

"I'm bummed," said Brown. "We had hoped to perform, but it's way more global
than that. It's exposure to so much music that's going on around the world,
to information about the business, networking, clinicians."

IAJE meets in different cities each year, but often in New York.

It began in 1968 as a modest professional gathering of jazz-music teachers,
holding its first conference in 1973.

In 1997, the conference embraced an "industry track," absorbing another
convention previously sponsored by JazzTimes magazine, which brought in
record companies, agents, managers, radio professionals and high-profile
performers such as Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones.

Since then, the organization has formed chapters worldwide and has become
the site for the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Awards
ceremony; commissions of new works; an academic conference; programs to
promote women in jazz; and a wide array of other programs, including a
teacher-training institute.

In a good year, the conference attracts 7,000 to 8,000 people, a must-attend
for anyone involved in jazz.

Rumors that the organization was in trouble surfaced after this year's
dramatically underattended conference in Toronto, down 40 percent.

In a March 25 letter to 8,000 members, Owen announced the suspension of
IAJE's magazine, its search for a new executive director, its scholarship
programs and its summer retreat.

The letter also explained that the organization's ambitious capital campaign
had spent more money in startup costs than it took in.

Owen asked members to donate $25 and netted about $12,000 from 250 donors,
according to Bergman. Greg Yasinitzy, IAJE's Northwest division coordinator,
said he had been told IAJE liabilities exceeded $1 million.

Bergman said he felt the organization's rapid growth had outstripped the
expertise of its founders.

"A bunch of jazz musicians formed this organization and it grew into a
multimillion-dollar operation with a huge convention and a big staff and big
journal, but it was still run by a volunteer board elected by the membership
that met twice a year."

Though the conference in Seattle has been canceled, there is already talk of
a regional conference that may take place instead.

Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or pdebarros at seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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