Friday, April 18, 2008
IAJE Declares Bankruptcy: Jazz Will Suffer
I can't tell you how much I've learned about jazz, and how many great performances I've attended and how much valuable jazz-industry networking I've done in the course of attending several IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education) conferences over the years.
My first IAJE conference was in New Orleans several years ago, and performances of Astral Project at the conference hotel and at the Funky Butt nightclub were among the highlights of that trip. I also got to participate in a panel presented by Jazziz magazine, a publication for which I've written since the mag was established in the mid-'80s.
In January of 2007, I made the third of three annual trips to the IAJE in New York. And that last one marked the first time that my wife accompanied me, as well as my young children. Taking their first airplane trip, seeing NYC, and being exposed to some great jazz (I took my son to see Jason Moran at Birdland) was the experience of their young lives, I think.
(Above is a shot of Israeli-born bass great Avishai Cohen, in performance at IAJE in '07)
IAJE also has provided the opportunity for me to re-establish contact with my colleagues in the Jazz Journalists Association, many of whom I get to hang out with only occasionally.
On a much greater and more important level, IAJE has served as the world's largest jazz organization, a robust provider of jazz education, a real connecting point for college jazz professors and other teachers, jazz radio people, jazz journalists, assorted record-company reps, managers, agents and, of course, musicians.
And now, after several months of controversy in jazz circles over the organization's apparently devastating financial crisis, the IAJE is no more. The organization is filing for bankruptcy and closing its doors.
The planned IAJE conference in Seattle (it was on my list of great things to do next year) has been scratched.
Will the Jazz Improv convention in NYC, allied with the mag of the same name, be able to pick up where IAJE left off?
At any rate, here's to IAJE's many accomplishments over the years. The cause of jazz indeed will be hurt by the death of this once great organization.
Below is the note outlining today's actions, from IAJE president Chuck Owen. It's being sent out to the organization's membership.
Dear IAJE Family,
It is with a great sense of loss that I inform you that despite drastic efforts to cut expenses and raise emergency funds, the IAJE Board has voted to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Federal Bankruptcy Law. I want to thank profusely those who responded with their generous donations and offers of assistance following my last communication. While over 250 individuals contributed just over $12,000, this, along with the many other efforts and contributions of IAJE staff, Board members, and association partners, was simply not enough to address the accumulated debt of the organization or its urgent need for cash relief.
In the next few days, a Kansas bankruptcy court will appoint a trustee to oversee all ongoing aspects of the association. This includes the ability to examine IAJE's financial records and mount an independent inquiry into the causes of it's financial downfall as well as disposing of the remaining assets of the association with proceeds distributed to creditors in accordance with Kansas and Federal law. The board will no longer be involved in operation of the organization and will at some point resign. IAJE as it presently stands will no longer exist.
Approximately a week after filing, all potential creditors of the association will receive notice of the association's filing from the court. Members who desire additional information regarding the petition, including a complete listing of association assets and liabilities, may retrieve this, as it is a public document, through normal court procedures. Undoubtedly, however, you will have more immediate questions deserving of responses I hope to address in this report.
Since the first communication to the membership outlining this crisis, there has been considerable public speculation as to its causes. As noted in that communication, years of dependence upon the conference as a primary (but unreliable) revenue stream and the launch of a well-intentioned capital campaign (the Campaign for Jazz), which generated a meager response but required considerable expenditures in advance of contributions, drove the association into insolvency. Sadly, the attendance at the conference in Toronto (the lowest in 10 years) exacerbated an already critical situation, depriving the association of the cash-flow needed to continue daily operations as well as the time needed to seek alternative resources.
While ultimately not able to skirt the financial land mines placed in its path, I want to assure you the IAJE Board has acted responsibly, ethically, and with a sense of urgency ever since it was blindsided last fall with the discovery of the extent of the accumulated association debt. Since that time, the board slashed spending, set specific performance targets for the Executive Director, sought outside consultations, and enlisted the services of several past-presidents and strategic association partners in attempts to raise funds - sadly, with minimal success.
It goes without saying, the board you elected is comprised of very accomplished, intelligent, and dedicated educators and professionals who have given generously of their time in service to this association and care about it passionately. Likewise, our entire professional staff, led by Associate Executive Director, Vivian Orndorff, and Executive Producer, Steve Baker, has worked heroically in the face of declining resources to meet the needs of the association and its members. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank both the board and staff for their service. I have been privileged and honored to serve with them. While there may be those who question specific decisions or strategies in efforts to meet this crisis, the dedication and integrity of these individuals should never be in doubt.
As we move forward, one of the most pressing questions is how the operations of individual chapters and affiliated associations will be affected by this filing. Since our chapters are either separate corporate entitles or voluntary associations with their own boards, constitutions and bylaws; IAJE views them as completely independent entities. Ultimately, however, the trustee and the court will make this determination and it is anticipated that the trustee may request certain information from the chapters in this regard.
Sadly, the 2009 IAJE International Conference in Seattle has been cancelled. However, there has been some discussion of mounting a regional conference in its place. At the moment, Lou Fischer, U.S. Board Representative is fielding inquiries: email@example.com.
For the time being, the IAJE website will remain up. However, the international offices of IAJE will close their doors at the end of the day on Friday, April 18th. Should there be additional questions you may submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org and every attempt will be made to respond to these as staffing allows.
Today, we, the members of IAJE and the global jazz community, face an extremely important task. For, as we all recognize, the opportunities, impact, and work of this association are too vital to simply disappear. Whether you were first drawn to IAJE for its conference, its magazine or research publications, its student scholarship programs such as Sisters in Jazz or the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz All-Stars, its Teacher Training Institutes, the resources provided through its website or Resource Team, or any one of a number of other offerings; it is clear the mission of IAJE still resonates and its advocacy is needed today more than ever. We must, therefore, look at this as an opportunity to refocus the mission, scope, programs, and vision of IAJE (or whatever succeeds it) to better meet the needs of our members and the jazz community not only today but looking toward the future.
I am, in no way, suggesting the membership turn a blind eye towards the need for an independent inquiry into causes and ultimately assigning responsibility for this situation. I ask you recognize the court appointed trustee, who will have access to all necessary documents and facts, is charged with that task. Our efforts and our passion, should be to collectively rally the community to recognize the importance IAJE has had and continues to have in the life and development of jazz and jazz education - seeking new strategic partnerships, new government structures, and a revitalized mission that embraces current needs.
Already there are efforts to do just that. I know that Mary Jo Papich, who would have begun serving her term as President of IAJE beginning this July, is dedicated to recreating such an association. As many know, Mary Jo has been a tireless advocate for IAJE, serving it long and well. You will, undoubtedly, be hearing from her in the near future. When she does contact you, I urge you to join me in offering her every support and assistance. Of course, others may also seek to fill this void by promoting alternative visions for empowering, serving, and gathering the jazz community. While I generally believe such diversity is quite healthy, I would strongly encourage all such efforts and leaders to attempt to collaborate and seek ways to unite us in spirit and strength.
Finally, I would encourage you to recognize and remember IAJE for all the tremendous good it has done in the past 40 years. Many individuals have contributed along the way, often at considerable personal sacrifice of their time and resources, to establish and advance the work of this association. Much has been achieved that can never be taken away! Therefore, the vision, effort, and shared passion that have fueled the growth of IAJE and its programs should not be forgotten or considered in vain. Rather, the spirit that is IAJE must be rekindled into a new vision for the future.
The IAJE Board - Chuck Owen, President