Music Industry News Network [11-28-2012]

40th Anniversary Of New York Jazz Museum

It was a beautiful spring morning on Thursday, June 15, 1972 as Americans awoke, turned on their television sets to the Today Show and learned that the nation's first jazz museum was set to open that day in New York City. They saw and heard hosts Frank McGhee and Joe Garagiola interviewing jazz greats Artie Shaw and Lionel Hampton and museum founder Howard Fischer.

The New York Jazz Museum opened at 125 West 55th Street, between Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue) and 7th Avenue in an old carriage house. It presented an exhibit about Louis Armstrong and the opening night party featured a band composed of musicians who last played with Louis before his death in 1971. Also in attendance was Louis' widow Lucille and numerous jazz luminaries and musicians.

The Museum would become the most significant institution for jazz in the world. There would be exhibits outlining the lives and careers of Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Count Basie et al. Free, live music concerts were sponsored by Calvert Distillers, rare jazz films were shown regularly, a Jazz Touring Program ranged as far away as Europe and the Museum developed a Jazz Puppet Show to introduce children to the art form. There was a monthly newsletter for members, a Jazz Store and in development was a program called Education Thru Jazz.

The Museum prospered for almost five years and was supported by the Ford Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, other foundations, agencies and corporations as well as numerous jazz lovers. It had many other programs and plans before its untimely demise.

During the spectacular growth of the Museum a devastating power struggle for control developed among its board members. It eventually led to lawsuits and the end of the Museum - an important cultural loss for music and New York City. The whole story is detailed in a book entitled Jazz Expose: The New York Jazz Museum and the Power Struggle That Destroyed It. The book was written by Howard Fischer, the Museum's founder and Executive Director. An e-book is now available on Amazon and Smashwords.


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