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First Annual JEN Conference

This issue of JAZZed marks a major milestone for our friends at the Jazz Education Network (JEN), as we have proudly partnered with them to help launch the first annual JEN Conference at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. This undertaking took an extraordinary amount of effort by the all-volunteerboard, and much of the credit should go to two of the visionary founders of the organization, MaryJo Papich and Dr. Lou Fischer. When we first met only a couple of years ago, there was a major gap in the market which was left by the demise of the IAJE, yet there was still a significant need for a place where jazz educators could meet, greet, learn and sample the music that means so much to us. It is difficult to fathom that in only this very short period of time, we would have been able to form a board, recruit hundreds of members, develop a Web site (with the valuable help of Steve Crissinger), partner with Symphony Publishing to include the JEN bi-monthly newslettter, and launch a conference… all without a single full-time employee!

Jim Widner, JEN board member and faculty member of the University of Missouri, St. Louis, stepped up to the plate to help further the cause of the JEN organization as he initiated the first conference and acted as the liaison between JEN and the University of Missouri. Jim took the steps necessary to provide a launch pad for future conferences and act as a catalyst to bring JEN to the next level. The lineup for the conference includes a wide variety of well-known jazz greats and school groups from across many genres and geographic regions. It includes The Clayton Brothers Quintet, Ndugu Chancelor, Marvin Stamm/Billy Mays Duo, The US Army Blues, Rufus Reid Outfront Trio, Caswell Sisters, University of Missouri St. Louis Big Band, The Brubeck Institute Quartet, Sixth Wave Vocal Quintet, and many, many other wonderful musicians.

The facility at the University, including the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, features a stunningly beautiful concert hall including absolutely state-of-the-art acoustical design, high-tech recording and sound reinforcement, and multiple concert venues for simultaneous performances. According the Touhill Web site, the facilties offer “two theaters that allow for great intimacy between the artist and the audience. Designed by the acclaimed architectural firm of Pei Cobb Freed Partners, the Center houses the 1,625-seat Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall and the 300-seat E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater.”

As we celebrate this major step for the new JEN organization, we view this important conference as just a first step towards many larger and even greater events in the future. We are already planning our 2011 conference in the birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans, on January 6-8, so plan on joining us next year. If you haven’t joined JEN, now is the best time to get in on the ground floor of an association that you can help shape to promote the future of jazz education and jazz performance.

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