American jazz gathering, planned for Seattle, is canceled
The most important American jazz gathering of the year, scheduled to take place in Seattle in January, has been canceled because its presenter...
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 creditors.
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 email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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