NEA Arts Magazine

The Making of a GREAT DAY FOR JAZZ

Twenty-three NEA Jazz Masters were able to celebrate the history of jazz and the accomplishments of their fellow musicians.

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A crowd of people pose for a photo

NEA Jazz Masters, left to right from back row: George Russell, Dave Brubeck; second row: David Baker, Percy Heath, Billy Taylor; third row: Nat Hentoff, Jim Hall, James Moody; fourth row: Jackie McLean, Chico Hamilton, Gerald Wilson, Jimmy Heath; fifth row: Ron Carter, Anita O'Day; sixth row: Randy Weston, Horace Silver; standing next to or in front of balustrade: Benny Golson, Hank Jones, Frank Foster (seated), Cecil Taylor, Roy Haynes, Clark Terry (seated) Louie Bellson, NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. Photo by Tom Pich

As photographer Tom Pich set up to shoot a gathering of venerated NEA Jazz Masters, one problem emerged that more than a year’s worth of planning and effort couldn’t have prevented—the 23 past and new NEA Jazz Masters wouldn’t stop talking long enough to take a photograph.

“All the past Masters were very excited to be there,” said Victoria Hutter, communications specialist for the NEA. “You could tell that they all realized what a special moment it was.”

NEA Jazz Master Dave Brubeck performs with two of his students from the Dave Brubeck Institute

NEA Jazz Master Dave Brubeck performs with two of his students from the Dave Brubeck Institute. Photos: Tom Pich

More than a year before the gala, representatives from the NEA and the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE), which has partnered with the NEA for many years to produce the NEA Jazz Masters ceremony, met to plan a spectacular evening. The idea was born to invite all the living NEA Jazz Masters to attend and be celebrated at a reunion luncheon. The preceding months were filled with planning the logistics of the ceremony and luncheon.

“The effort took an enormous amount of work. Bringing together that number of people and balancing everyone’s schedules was a challenge,” Hutter said.