First Annual JEN Conference

June 3, 2010

JEN president Mary Jo Papich and president-elect Dr. Lou Fischer at Thurday night's gathering for founding members of the Jazz Education Network.

JEN president Mary Jo Papich and president-elect Dr. Lou Fischer at
Thurday night’s gathering for founding members of the Jazz Education Network.

The inaugural JEN (Jazz Education Network) Conference, held Thursday May 20th through Saturday May 22 at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, exceeded all expectations. The almost 1,300 attendees, who traveled to the gathering from over 14 countries, enjoyed performances, workshops, and speeches from some of the biggest names in contemporary jazz.

The event began on Thursday morning, with JEN president Mary Jo Papich calling a meeting of the board that aimed for “full transparency” by making the meeting public. The turnout to watch the board in action and ask questions was relatively strong and more trickled in throughout the two-hour meeting.

Jim Widner, conference host who was key in bringing the event to his hometown, welcomed every one and said he was overwhelmed by how many registered for the gathering. Papich, who had admitted she could not have predicted the response and would have been happy with two thirds of the final tally, said she was extremely pleased with how it all came together from the amount of talent on display to cooperation of the University of Missouri-St. Louis and even the Hilton hotel where most stayed. “We sold out two hotels just like that!” she said. “And we weren’t even going to have a conference this year!”

“We’re really excited about the registration numbers, but in addition to bringing people here, we’ve really tried to embrace the local community,” said president-elect Lou Fischer. Papich added that while they didn’t feel they had the resources to bring a lot of kids in, they desired to have an outreach program go out into the St. Louis area schools while the organization was in town.

She then yielded the floor to Phil Dunlap, who is director of education of Jazz St. Louis, a nonprofit organization support jazz performance and education. He reported that his committee, with help of board member Terrell Stafford and others, put a program together where they sent out nine clinicians into the metro-area schools. “There’s a lot going on to be proud of,” he said.

The ensuing days included over 50 exhibits, 48 top-notch performances, and 39 panels and clinics.

As keynote speaker (and recent JAZZed cover-subject) David Baker noted during his address on Friday, “The Phoenix has risen.”

Next year’s JEN Conference will take place in New Orleans from January 6 – 8. For more information on upcoming events and to join JEN, visit: www.JazzEdNet.org.

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