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July 21, 2013

All that jazz

Jamey Aebersold’s worldwide influence on jazz education nets him national recognition

(Continued)

NEW ALBANY —

AND THE AWARD GOES TO...

Wayne Brown, director of music and opera for the National Endowment for the Arts, said Aebersold’s work in jazz education has helped the art form grow worldwide.

“I think the fact that a good part of his life had been devoted to taking on the role of the pied piper, if you will, for advocating the kind of interest in the art form is reflected in his demonstrated leadership,” Brown said. “I think it’s a pretty clear case that he’s out there doing his part to encourage the increasing awareness of the art form and helping Americans to recognize an important, significant art form that’s reflective of our country.”

Aebersold said he couldn’t believe it when he found out he won the award. He got a phone call and was skeptical when the voice on the other end said they were from the NEA.

“When the guy called me, I actually thought he was a salesman and he could tell that,” Aebersold said.

Brown said he remembered that conversation and said for such a big figure in jazz education, Aebersold is soft-spoken, but to-the-point.

“We spoke by telephone and it was quite a surprise,” Brown said. “He has a very quiet manner, he’s very focused on making sure his next generation of jazz must have an opportunity for good solid training and the ability to work with some of the best people out there.”

Harbison said Aebersold’s reach goes beyond his ability to play and the venues he’s performed in all over the world. He said his teaching has impacted jazz more than anything else.

“I think it's fantastic,” Harbison said. “Jamey really is a world-class sax player, but he’s really made his mark in the world in a big way with teaching and writing how the music works and how people learn to play.”

About to turn 74, Aebersold said he hopes the interest in learning jazz doesn’t subside, but he said he’s glad he’s had a role in spreading the gospel of what he calls “America’s music.”

“I think getting the award, and so many people know Jamey Aebersold from the book or the record and have never met me, it might help elevate jazz in general,” Aebersold said. “These people are out playing in their basement and their bedroom and so forth and they’re not thinking of themselves as being a musician. It might elevate their sense of worth and maybe help their creativity a little bit.”

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