On June 11, 2021, the weekly speaker for Rotary of Atlanta West End was Janice Williams from Jazz Matters, Inc., a 501(c)(3) a non-profit organization founded with her husband Edwin Williams. Jazz Matters celebrates and promotes the Art of Jazz by highlighting the diversity and cultural roots of Jazz music and musical genres influenced by it.
Janice discussed the Jazz Matters at the Wren's Nest summer concert series in Atlanta’s Historic West End. Happening since 2016, the attendance has grown from 200 in the first year to 800-1000 attending in 2019. For obvious reasons, 2020 presented Jazz Matters with challenges, but they remained nimble and made pandemic adjustments by putting on three virtual concerts and a virtual learning series. There is also now the “Yes Jazz Matters” podcast with new episodes weekly.
The goal of Jazz Matters is to be an institution that will endure. It is working to achieve this in several ways. One is by training artists, musically and in the ways of contracts and business. Another is how they would like to bring music back to the lives of children who have had “extracurriculars” like music taken from their schools because, in addition to the richness that music can add to the experiences of children, music can also lead to scholarships and other opportunities. An internship managing summer events such as the concert series put on by Jazz Matters is under consideration. Music might even lead young people to put down their cellphones and other screened devices. Janice told us Jazz Matters partners with schools in Fulton and Clayton Counties. They would like to form more partnerships, but schools often lack the funding to support musical activities, and transportation to shuttle the kids to music lessons is also an obstacle.
Janice briefly touched on the topic of staffing and funding operations. In terms of staff, it is just Janice, Edwin, and their friend Latoya doing the heavy lifting of Jazz Matters. Funding comes from a mix of government funding, such as arts and culture funding from the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, ticket sales, and self-funding (not necessarily in that order). They are open to sponsors and donations and are always interested in new ways to partner.
The concert series begins again in person on August 20th. It will be outdoors and allow for safe distancing, as well as offering a hybrid online component. You can view upcoming Jazz Matters events and learn more here: https://yesjazzmatters.org