DCJF Spring ENews - 2020

April 20, 2020

DCJF Spring ENews - 2020


by Sunny Sumter, Executive Director

"Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency." Wise words from my music teacher, the great jazz pianist Geri Allen, on a day when she spent more time teaching me about virtues than the Eric Dolphy transcription assignment in my jazz improvisation class at Howard University. Geri said that the consistent practice of courage reveals not only our strength but our truth, kindness, generosity and integrity. This courage mantra speaks to me daily now. These are unprecedented and trying times. As our doors are closed to live art presentations, our indefatigable healthcare workers and first responders deserve all the applause right now as they risk their lives to save lives. 

Our applause also goes out to the nonprofits taking care of the most vulnerable, to the foundations creating relief funds for those most in need, and to the funders that have unrestricted their grants so that organizations can meet their most pressing needs. We are all learning how to best cope with our new reality, working together and recognizing that we are all in this together. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is more than a health crisis. Its financial and social impact has affected us all. It has been inspiring to see the many displays of unity, humanity and solidarity among our extended jazz family over these past few weeks. Jazz drummer Lenny Robinsonis leading the DC Area Jazz Musicians Benevolence Fund through Westminster Church to support individual jazz artists. Chris Grasso's Live Cov-Aid is helping healthcare professionals. The Jazz Road Quick Assist Fund, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is supporting jazz artists who have lost work. And Artist Relief is providing grants to 2,000 artists facing dire financial emergencies. 

DC Jazz Festival is exploring ways we can create a 2020 DC JazzFest offering that advances our mission and supports our regional artists and venue partners. Perhaps virtual, perhaps live, depending on the social gathering protocols. In one form or another, the DC JazzFest will take place, and we will announce more details about our presentations and rescheduled dates in the coming weeks. 

As the global community continues to respond, the DC Jazz Festival has been contemplating how we can most effectively support our community. We have compiled an extensive list in our COVID-19 Community Resource Center for artists, venues partners and our circle of friends. Please visit this page for leads on grants and fundraising for artists and small businesses, further details on available resources, and other useful information. 

We are so looking forward to the next time we can come together to enjoy a live concert full of good jazz, good times and good company. Until then, stay productive, creative and healthy. And, jazz family, stay courageous. 

United in Jazz We Stand!


by Willard Jenkins, Artistic Director

In these strange times of global pandemic, when so many of our artists have been largely prohibited from practicing their craft via the traditional venues in these days of social distancing, a number of artists are developing alternative means for conveying their creative expressions to the public. Additionally, quite a few enterprising artists have developed and joined movements seeking relief and financial assistance for their colleagues, the majority of whom operate largely in what has become known as the "gig economy." 

One of the DCJF 2020 artists I was most looking forward to seeing on our stages is the exciting young saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin. Here's an artist who is on the cusp of significantly raising her profile with the recent release of the splendid, critically-acclaimed, Pursuance (the music of Alice & John Coltrane; Ropeadope), when COVID-19 raised its ugly head. Instead of wallowing in despair, she has continued to ramp up her virtual performance activities as well as hosting live Q&A interviews with some of the greats who will appear on her new album, like vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater (4/8), violinist Regina Carter (4/16), and saxophonist Gary Bartz (4/22). Access these interviews on her Instagram page (@LAKECIAB). 

There have been several laudable relief efforts in the DMV as well. One notable cause has been the work of one of the three finalist bands in our first DC JazzPrix emerging bands competition last year was the group Cowboys & Frenchmen, led by saxophonist Owen Broder. Broder's mother, Debbie, is a DMV-based arts activist, and Owen spearheaded this recent virtual online music festival that showcased a variety of different local talents.

Jazz musicians are among the most flexible and inventive of all artists, and these are just a small fraction of how the jazz community, both individually and collectively, are responding to life amidst this global pandemic. Any support you can offer is much appreciated, please stay vigilant...


by Heidi Martin, Education & Community Engagement Assistant

and Tess Holcom, Education Intern  

Just before we all began staying at home to help do our part in the collective fight against COVID-19, DC Jazz Festival, in partnership with Sitar Arts Center, presented a Jazzin' AfterSchool master class at Sitar Arts Center. Herman Burney, jazz bassist and lead instructor for Jazzin' AfterSchool, led a trio of professional clinicians rounded out by drummer Charles Wilson and guitarist/violinist Leonard Brown. The group performed jazz standards including "St. Thomas" by tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins and "Four on Six" by famed guitarist Wes Montgomery. These tunes were chosen to teach middle and high school students syncopated rhythms and melodies. Immediately following the trio's performance, Burney led interactive demonstrations familiarizing students with the form of the tunes, with a focus on identifying chord movements within a calypso rhythm. Students took turns leading their peers in the ensemble, developing their confidence and teamwork skills. 

There was a feeling of accomplishment and success following each performance and the students let the instructors know it, showering them with applause and praise once the master class came to a close. This was another successful highlight of the Jazzin' AfterSchool instrument training and jazz history initiative for budding musicians at Sitar Arts Center. "The Master class is absolutely wonderful," said A. Lorraine Robinson, Sitar Arts Center's Senior Director of Programs. "The class showcases the incredible impact that the DC Jazz Festival partnership is having on our developing young artists at Sitar. For some, this has sparked interest in further study at schools such as Duke Ellington and Berklee Music School (and for the students that are first-generation college applicants that is transformational.

This DC Jazz Festival Education Program is made possible through a grant by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, an agency support in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding provided by the Galena-Yorktown Foundation, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Gillon Family Charitable Fund, Venable Foundation, The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, the John Edward Fowler Memorial Foundation, and our Circle of Friends.


Please join the DCJF family in welcoming Matt Singer to the team! Matt is the Marketing Coordinator for the DC Jazz Festival. He's a DMV-native who was born-and-raised in Montgomery County, Maryland, before eventually finding his way down south where he attended The University of Georgia where he received degrees in Marketing and Advertising. Singer has held a variety of roles post-graduation and has non-profit experience from his time working as an Associate Marketing Coordinator at the Mortgage Bankers Association. He's always been a music fanatic and is well versed in the ins-and-outs of the DC music scene, previously serving as a production manager at Songbyrd Music House as well as working in a management/booking capacity for some of the city's most exciting up-and-coming acts. Singer believes that nothing compares to the feeling of attending a live concert and he's excited to share that feeling with the attendees of every DCJF event!