I recently did some pro bono work for the Jazz Foundation of America. It’s a great organization that more people should donate to. I had the honor of documenting their recent Jazz Loft Party which is an annual fundraiser. This year they raised over $275,000 in donations and Terrell Batiste, a trumpet player from New Orleans is going to get a pair of prosthetic legs. Wow! All in one night!
The Jazz Foundation has been dedicated to helping musicians in crisis for over 21 years. Despite the fact that they take on an average of 1600 cases per year administering millions of dollars worth of donations, very few outside of the organization know about all their great work.

In the relatively short length of time I’ve been closely following the New York Jazz scene I have heard countless testimonials from musicians that have been first hand recipients of their incredible works. So why haven’t more people heard about them? Perhaps it’s because their beneficiaries would rather you not know of the trouble they’ve seen. Perhaps it’s because their donors would rather take care of the musicians than attract the publicity.

I’ve been involved with the Foundation on a voluntary basis for a few years, providing video production services for their fundraising events. I’ve interviewed b0th of the above groups of people and from what I can gather my assumptions are true. I won’t betray the confidence I’ve earned but I will share one thing that is part of the story of my film Shiny Stockings.

When Frank Foster suffered his debilitating stroke he had no health insurance and no means to pay his mortgage. The JFA stepped in and took care of both.

You can visit their website (jazzfoundation.org/ ) for more information but here are some highlights of what the JFA does from the site:

Teaching Gigs
The Agnes Varis Jazz & Blues in the Schools Program creates performance opportunities for elder masters of jazz and blues.

Jazz Musicians Emergency Fund
In 1992, the Jazz Foundation established its first Jazz Musicians Emergency Fund to save musicians from eviction and provide emergency living expenses.

Emergency Housing Fund
The Jazz Foundation has been keeping elderly musicians from eviction and homelessness for over 20 years. In 2001, E*TRADE FINANCIAL became our first housing sponsor and made it possible, under the auspices of Jarrett Lilien, to do this for the past seven years, with over $1 million spent.

Pro Bono Healthcare
JFA started a network of dental care and dentists who either donate their services completely free or for the minimum amount to cover actual costs. These services are available to horn players and vocalists as the dentists’ time and case loads allow. Since 2001, this network of amazing doctors has grown to other states where we have found uninsured musicians who need help. These doctors have opened their hearts and their care to our musicians in times of crisis.

Since 1994, our Angel-partners at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center’s Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund have provided pro bono medical care – to date, worth over five million dollars – to over 1,000 of our uninsured musicians. Their amazing generosity literally keeps jazz and blues alive.

It all started when jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie passed away in 1993: one of his last requests was that any jazz musician in need of medical care be treated for free at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. After Dizzy’s passing, trumpeter Jimmy Owens made a musical tribute called 100 Trumpets for Dizzy at Englewood. It was there that the head of Englewood hospital said that they would honor Dizzy’s last request.