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NEA Jazz Masters Live and Jazz Masters on Tour

Arts Midwest works closely with the National Endowment for the Arts and manages several of its national initiatives. From 2004 to 2014, Arts Midwest developed and managed two such initiatives, NEA Jazz Masters Live and its predecessor program, NEA Jazz Masters on Tour.

NEA Jazz Masters Live and NEA Jazz Masters on Tour were supported by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of their overall NEA Jazz Masters program, which includes the NEA Jazz Masters Awards, the highest honor that our nation annually bestows on jazz artists who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz.

NEA Jazz Masters Live, which ran from 2008 to 2014, supported presenting organizations that conducted meaningful, in-depth, extended engagements featuring NEA Jazz Masters. These engagements honored the NEA Jazz Masters’ body of work, history, or style; provided understanding of their significance to jazz through thematically-designed or retrospective programming; and broadened audiences’ awareness of their unique contributions to this original American art form.

NEA Jazz Masters Live reached audiences in 16 states with 134 performances and 193 educational activities. In total, we supported 34 performing arts presenters with more than $1 million which enabled 51 NEA Jazz Masters to perform.

Some of the engagements included:

  • Burlington Discover Jazz Festival in Burlington, Vermont presenting Chick Corea and Lee Konitz
  • Deer Isle Jazz Festival in Stonington, Maine presenting NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron
  • Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho presenting Benny Golson, Eddie Palmieri, and Sheila Jordan
  • Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey, California presenting Lou Donaldson, Bobby Hutcherson, and Wayne Shorter
  • New Mexico Jazz Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico presenting Jack DeJohnette
  • Tri-C Jazz Fest in Cleveland, Ohio presenting Roy Haynes, Dan Morgenstern and Randy Weston

When NEA Jazz Master and saxophonist Benny Golson, who performed at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Idaho, was asked what he thought about the opportunity to speak to an audience through NEA Jazz Masters Live, he said:

“I think it’s important because it takes the audience on the inside of things; usually they’re just observing things from the outside. I find that they’re always interested; they tell me that they enjoy our stories as much as they enjoy the music. You can’t get what I’m talking about—or anybody else who would talk like this—at the record shop.”

From 2004 to 2007, Arts Midwest managed a similar national initiative titled NEA Jazz Masters on Tour. This program reached audiences in all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands) through performances, educational activities, and speaking engagements featuring the NEA Jazz Masters. Launched in 2004 with 16 participating presenters, NEA Jazz Masters on Tour then expanded to include the entire country, including Historically Black College and University presenters, with coordination from Arts Midwest.

Through NEA Jazz Masters on Tour, Arts Midwest supported 85 performances and 100 educational activities, reaching an estimated audience of more than 160,000. Twenty NEA Jazz Masters participated in NEA Jazz Masters on Tour.