Issues: Jazz

HR 2823, National Jazz Preservation and Education Act of 2011

Helping our nation preserve our jazz heritage and educate America's youth about this national treasure.


·         Congressman John Conyers’ legislation would establish a National Jazz Preservation Program at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. 

o   The Program would create oral and video histories of leading jazz artists, acquire, preserve and interpret artifacts, conduct exhibitions and other educational activities that would enable generations of Americans to learn about and enjoy jazz, and provide for performances by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra that interpret the history of jazz.


·         In addition, the legislation encourages the introduction of jazz to our youth by authorizing the US Department of Education, through its Fund for the Improvement of Education, to:

o   Create a Jazz Artists in the Schools Progra, modeled on the successful one previously operated by the National Endowment for the Arts with a National Coordinator from 1978 through 1982 as a component of its Artists in Schools ProgramState arts agencies, working with a National Coordinator and city school administrators, would select participating regional jazz artists and schools.  Those jazz artists chosen to participate would be required to attend an annual National Training Workshop in advance of placement.

o    Create a new Ambassadors of Jazz Program, modeled on the one launched by the US Department of State back in 1956, and its more recent Ambassadors of Jazz Program operated by State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs from 1997 to 2006.  Both of these programs sent noted American jazz musicians abroad to perform for international audiences.  My bill would authorize funding for young musicians and jazz ensembles from secondary schools to be sent aborad on missions of goodwill, education and cultural exchange to perform for diverse audiences.


Congressman Conyers’s Support for Jazz

Congressman Conyers is well known as a patron of the arts, and is renowned for his love of jazz. In his role as a federal legislator, he has successfully fought for greater recognition and funding for jazz.

In 1985, under the leadership of Congressman John Conyers, Jr., the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) Jazz Issue Forum and Concert was established to enhance and perpetuate the art form, emphasize its cultural heritage, and force awareness and pride within the African American community. Each year, the Forum explores a different aspect of the jazz experience in order to promote a better understanding of the diversity and vibrancy of this music as a dynamic cultural phenomenon within our society. Over the past 26 years, Congressman Conyers has covered such topics as mentoring, opportunities for new talent, jazz education, the economics of jazz, and the contributions of women in jazz. The Forum is held in conjunction with the CBCF's Annual Legislative Conference. Traditionally, the Forum followed by a free concert where live jazz is performed by some of America's finest jazz artists.

The Jazz Issue Forum and Concert has brought together an impressive array of talent, from song stylists to composers, from musicians to publishers, from broadcasters to educators, and historians and archivists. Among the notables who have previously participated are: Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Lionel Hampton, Illinois Jacquet, Abby Lincoln, Nancy Wilson, Dr. Donald Byrd, Barry Harris, Dr. Billy Taylor, Shirley Horn, the Modern Jazz Quartet, the Count Basie Orchestra, Gary Bartz, Hank and Elvin Jones, Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, and many more.

In 1987, the Congress passed Conyers’ House Concurrent Resolution 57 designating jazz a "national American treasure."

In 1990, the Congressman won passage of a resolution commemorating tap, a form of dance closely associated with jazz.  That measure designated May 25th, the birthday of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, as National Tap Dance Day. Also in 1990, Congressman Conyers won passage of appropriations legislation awarding the Smithsonian Institution with funding to establish a comprehensive jazz program, including the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.

During the 111th Congress, Mr. Conyers introduced House Resolution 894, honoring the 50th anniversary of the recording of the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue and reaffirming jazz as a national treasure. The album is widely considered the greatest jazz album of all time. The House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 894 on December 15th, 2009. The vote showed a strong commitment on the part of Members of Congress to preserving and celebrating American music and culture.

In the 112th Congress, Congressman Conyers introduced H.R. 2823, the “National Jazz Preservation and Education Act of 2011.”  The Act will make needed investments that will allow for the preservation of artifacts that document our country’s jazz legacy and educate America’s youth about this national treasure.  Specifically, the Act will establish a National Jazz Preservation Program at the Smithsonian and resurrect both the Jazz Artists in the Schools Program and the Ambassadors of Jazz Program.  The National Jazz Preservation and Education Act of 2011 will build on Mr. Conyers’ 1987 Resolution by establishing jazz education programs aimed at elementary and secondary students and by preserving the many artifacts, documents, and photographs that tell the story of jazz in America.  By preserving the past and creating a new generation of jazz musicians and fans, this legislation will help to ensure that this uniquely American musical genre lives on.

Congressman Conyers has been supportive of efforts to present live jazz to the public in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area through his past service on the board of directors of such organizations as Capital City Jazz Festivals, Inc., and District Curators. He has also served in the past on the boards of the National Jazz Service Organization, and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.



Related Records

Congressman's Statement and Related Bills