Over the last two centuries, some of the major innovations and advances in music have originated in the United States: blues, bluegrass, country and western, rock and roll, rap—and jazz.
As you go through the NEA Jazz in the Schools curriculum, you will see how the musical innovation that is jazz has been integrally woven into the fabric of America’s story. As jazz has grown from the melting pot of New Orleans to the concert halls of the new millennium, there has been the need to recognize that greatness and significance and to honor those who made it possible.
In 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts created the NEA Jazz Masters Awards program to provide that recognition. Since then, 87 living legends of jazz have been designated NEA Jazz Masters, the nation’s highest honor in jazz. These awards are bestowed on artists who have had a major impact on the art form, and who have excelled in their mastery of the music. Those artists are listed here and many are featured in the curriculum.
Each year, newly named NEA Jazz Masters are celebrated at an awards ceremony and concert and are provided with a one-time fellowship of $25,000 along with opportunities to connect with jazz audiences through touring, TV and radio programming, recordings, and publications.
In addition to its NEA Jazz Masters program, the National Endowment for the Arts has supported thousands of jazz organizations across the country. The NEA has awarded millions of dollars in grants to support jazz festivals including the Monterey Jazz Festival, education activities like the Chicago Jazz and Heritage program, as well as performances and research.
The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.
For more information, please go to www.neajazzmasters.org