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Dr. Larry Ridley
Dr. Larry Ridley, executive director of the African American Jazz Caucus (AAJC), renowned jazz musician and educator, takes a moment to chat with Dr. Beverly Washington Jones, NCCU's provost and vice chancellor of Academic Affairs.

DURHAM, N.C. - North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and the African American Jazz Caucus (AAJC) have joined forces in an effort to preserve the integrity of jazz as an African American art form.

“Jazz is a component of the African American culture,” said NCCU Chancellor James H. Ammons. “Through this research institute, we will be involved in the kinds of activities that ensure the history of jazz is preserved.”

NCCU and AAJC are partnering to form a Jazz Research Institute that will host the Inaugural Annual Summer Jazz Festival/HBCU Summit Conference in Durham, June 20-24, 2007. NCCU and AAJC will begin to develop other initiatives such as a North Carolina Hall of Fame dedicated to highlighting the work of jazz artists from North Carolina.

“We believe that this Festival/Summit will help to breathe new life into the jazz community and provide more concert opportunities for jazz enthusiasts in Durham,” said Dr. Paula Harrell, chair of the NCCU Music Department. “We look forward to hosting the event along with the AAJC and to our efforts targeted at strengthening the appreciation of the contributions of African Americans to the genre.”

The Annual Summer Jazz Festival is also designed to showcase the enormous talents of students and educators. At the center of this is the extraordinary AAJC/HBCU Student All-star Big Band*. The band was conceived in 2001, by Dr. Larry Ridley, AAJC executive director, renowned jazz musician and educator.

Its debut was at the 2002 International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) Conference, in Long Beach, California. Since its inception, there has been a substantial increase in the number of schools and students who audition annually.
In addition to this outstanding big band, various ensembles comprised of the finest HBCU students and educators will also perform. Renowned guest artists are slated to participate and will be announced in the near future. Nightly jam sessions will conclude each day’s activities.

One of the functions of the NCCU/AAJC Jazz Research Institute (NAJRI) would be to address the critical artistic and economic situation of jazz in the African American community. The objectives and goals of NAJRI are (1) to restore jazz to its rightful place of cultural importance and significance in the African American community and especially the youth culture; (2) to develop jazz education programs for elementary grades through college, with an emphasis on HBCUs; (3) to demonstrate the legacy of jazz and the diverse African elements in which it is rooted, spirituals, work songs, blues, gospel, hip hop, Latin, Caribbean, South American as well as the influence of jazz on all forms of music.

“This event will bring enormous attention to NAJRI and the NCCU Jazz Studies Program while benefiting the entire Raleigh/Durham community,” said Ridley. “The Summit Conference will establish new horizons for all of the Jazz Studies programs throughout the entire circuit of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

The only opportunity that the various HBCU Jazz educators have had to collectively discuss the issues and challenges that they face has been at the annual January conference of the IAJE.

“With all of the extensive activities and distractions of that huge event, there is a limited amount of time that can be focused upon the unique situations inherent to Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” said Ridley. “This annual Summer Summit Conference will enable these educators to focus entirely upon their specific concerns.”

The African American Jazz Caucus, Inc. (AAJC), in affiliation with the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE), is a not-for-profit organization that is working to maintain and record the aesthetic integrity, legacy and historical facts germane to jazz. The AAJC is engaged in creating programs and providing services to further jazz education.

For more information about the Festival/Summit, please contact the AAJC at AfAmJzCaucus@aol.com or Sharon Saunders at ssaunders@nccu.edu. For related booking inquiries, email najri2007@yahoo.com.

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2007
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