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Open Letter to NARAS on behalf of the JEN Board of Directors and collective membership
The letter that follows below was drafted by the JEN Board of Trustees on behalf of the Board and membership's collective concern over the recent elimination of the Latin Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Traditional Blues, and other categories of Grammy Awards. The letter has been forwarded to the NARAS offices on JEN letterhead containing the names of the full JEN Board, specifically to Neil Portnow/President NARAS and the NARAS Board of Trustees.
May 16, 2011
Neil Portnow President/NARAS and the NARAS Board of TrusteesThe Recording Academy
Dear Mr. Portnow and NARAS Trustees,
This letter is written on behalf of the Board of Directors of The Jazz Education Network (JEN). Our organization’s growing membership consists of an international community of more than 2,000 music educators, students, schools, composers, professional musicians, media professionals, publishers, manufactures and fans. The JEN Board of Directors serves to fulfill our mission and the needs of our membership. This includes a commitment to serve, support, and represent the diverse spectrum of individuals and Jazz styles that our membership and the entire international jazz community represent.
Your recent decision to eliminate the Contemporary Jazz category and the Latin Jazz category from Grammy awards consideration will have a tremendous impact on the national and international music community, including many voting members of JEN and NARAS. We have received numerous responses and expressions of grave concern from our members & constituents voicing their extreme disappointment, disillusionment, and ultimately questioning the value of continued membership and participation in NARAS. The continued relevance of the Grammy Awards has been called into question as a result.
It is the collective opinion of the JEN Board of directors that eliminating these essential awards categories will profoundly and negatively impact the entire worldwide jazz community on many levels. Financial and social implications of this draconian proposal will extend to the fields of music education, performance opportunities, recording, music publishing, and instrument manufacturing. Most importantly, this decision will have a profound sociological and cultural impact. The elimination of the Latin jazz category, as well as traditional blues, Native American, and similar categories reflecting the diverse cultural traditions of our country discriminates against all of these large communities as well as supports an unfortunate trend of homogenizing our society.
Many of these niche genres have recently lost critical exposure and financial support, due to increased consolidation in the commercial music market and are struggling to be heard and survive as art forms. This egregious proposal comes despite the fact that NARAS’ membership support continues to suggest the vitality of these essential awards categories. We vigorously assert that the elimination of these categories would be a grave mistake and a disservice to the NARAS mission as well as to our culture.
In the spirit of fulfilling our mission, we are submitting this letter to inform you that the JEN Board of Directors are in solidarity and support unanimously any and all efforts by our membership and the entire international music community’s efforts to encourage the NARAS Board of Trustees to reverse your recent decisions immediately. We urge you to recognize the scope of these dissenting voices and the potential damage this unfortunate decision will cause to your NARAS membership rolls and ultimate support of your efforts.
We thank you for your consideration of our collegial request that these Grammy awards categories (i.e. Latin Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Native American, et. al.) be reinstated immediately and we look forward to working with you to nurture music education, creativity, and diversity in the recording arts. As stated in your mission, please keep working towards “improving the quality of life and cultural conditions for music and its makers”.
Dr. Lou Fischer
Jazz Education Network
1601 Oakwood Ave.
Highland Park, IL 60035