The future of local jazz radio - Open meeting of Greater Boston's Jazz Community


WGBH's jazz programming cutbacks hit hard,
and Greater Boston's jazz community responds

JazzBoston  calls an open meeting for July 31 at
the Boston Public Library
 

You are receiving this letter because you are a member of Greater Boston’s jazz community. Personally or professionally, your life is connected in some way to the music, and you care about its future. We’re writing to you today because our jazz community is facing serious challenges, and we hope you will want to participate in the effort to address them

By now most of you know that July 6 will be the beginning of a new, nearly jazz-free era at WGBH. In the latest in a series of cutbacks that began nearly 3 years ago, Eric Jackson’s show will be moved from weeknights to the weekend, leaving Eric with only 9 hours of total airtime, and Steve Schwartz’s show, along with his job as producer, will be eliminated altogether. Jazz will be replaced by NPR programming, more news, and more talk, and the voices of two of the most eloquent, knowledgeable champions of Boston’s thriving jazz scene will be significantly muted. That WGBH’s abandonment of “arts and culture” is part of a nationwide trend among NPR stations doesn’t make its impact any less damaging.

Since the news of the programming changes broke on June 20, there’s been an outpouring of pain and anger from fans and musicians throughout the Greater Boston area and beyond. WGBH management is being bombarded with letters demanding that Eric and Steve be fully reinstated, canceling memberships, and threatening to withhold all future support. As the only jazz advocacy organization in the area, JazzBoston is getting daily emails and Facebook comments asking, “What are you going to do?”

We see this as a watershed moment for our city’s jazz community. We’ve suffered a serious loss, and we’re being watched from near and far to see how we respond. Ironically, WGBH’s regrettable action has brought our diverse and widely dispersed community closer than it’s been in decades. It has also bought us an unusual amount of attention from the media. We need to seize the opportunity to focus all this energy on working together to find 21st century solutions that address not only WGBH’s action but also the broader issues of the future of local jazz radio and the place of jazz in our city’s cultural life.

Here’s what JazzBoston is doing and what we’ve already done:

  • We will hold an open meeting at the Boston Public Library at 6 pm on July 31 to bring together members of Greater Boston’s jazz community, our natural allies in the broader arts community, and potential allies outside the arts world. Emmett Price, Chair of African American Studies and Associate Professor of Music and African American Studies at Northeastern University, will co-lead the conversation with José Massó, longtime community activist and announcer/producer of ¡Con Salsa! on WBUR FM. Emmettt and José are JazzBoston board members.
  • JazzBoston sent a letter to The Boston Globe responding to the editorial about WGBH’s programming changes on June 30, the day the editorial appeared.
  • We will request a meeting with WGBH senior management to explore what the jazz community can do to prevent further erosion of jazz programming at the station and what WGBH can do to make the most of what’s left.
  • JazzBoston board members have begun contacting members of WGBH’s Corporate Executive Council and Community Advisory Board. This process will continue.
  •  JazzBoston board members have begun connecting with potential allies in Boston’s arts, academic, business, and city and state government sectors who have the power, resources, and will to make a difference.
  • We are collaborating with people who have come forward to volunteer their assistance — e.g., the president of a large radio station, the VP of Strategic Planning at one of the premier ISPs, and several online news writers, as well as journalist and author Nat Hentoff, who is following developments closely from New York, where he writes for the Wall Street Journal. Hentoff is a big fan of both Steve and JazzBoston. Look for something from him on this subject soon.
  • We are using our Facebook page to work in tandem with the Save Jazz on WGBH Now group to provide a community forum for exchanging information and insights and keep everyone up to date on related actions and events.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Commit now to be at the July 31 meeting. Join the event posted on JazzBoston's Facebook page or write to thefutureofjazz@jazzboston.org.
  • Take a close look at your own network of friends and colleagues, identify the ones who care about the quality of our city’s cultural life, and bring them with you on the 31st.
  • Visit JazzBoston’s Facebook page to keep up to date on news and commentary.
  • Write to thefutureofjazz@jazzboston.org if you have questions or suggestions for JazzBoston or other members of Greater Boston’s jazz community you don’t know how to reach.

Other cities have faced the same problems we’re facing now in Boston, and some of the most enlightened ones have found solutions. If Boston’s jazz community comes together and our natural allies support us, we’re optimistic we can find solutions here too. One of them may well be a way to keep Eric’s and Steve’s voices on the local airwaves.

JazzBoston's Board of Directors looks forward to seeing you at the Library on July 31.

Pauline Bilsky, Executive Director
Don Carlson
Mark Harvey
José Massó
Thomas Novak
Jason Palmer
Emmett G. Price III
Dayla Arabella Santurri
Larry Simpson
Fred Taylor
Jack Wright
Bob Young