Nonprofit Jazz Arts Initiative launches new, old-school jazz series in Charlotte

Special to Philanthropy Journal

Charlotte area students participate in Jazz Arts Initiative program.
Charlotte area students participate in Jazz Arts Initiative program.

By Lonnie Davis

Jazz is perhaps the most expressive of all music styles. Born from a blending of African and European music styles and traditions, it is the only musical genre considered purely American in its origin.

Helping to celebrate the genius of this classic art form while defining the rich cultural character of Charlotte, Jazz Arts Initiative (JAI) has launched a new performance series that will feature some of the region’s most gifted contemporary musicians recreating the aura of classic jazz from a bygone era.

JAI is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the promotion, education, preservation of jazz.  Our new series, THE JAZZ ROOM @ The Stage Door Theater, is aims to engage Charlotte’s professional community as a way to unwind after work. The first show will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 at the The Stage Door Theater with pianist Chad Lawson. An official Steinway and Sons Artist and recent recipient of an artist grant by the state of North Carolina, Lawson will perform music of jazz pioneer Bill Evans.

The Stage Door Theater is located within the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center at the corner of 5th and College in Uptown Charlotte.  During the monthly events, which will be presented on the third Tuesday, the venue will be transformed into a casual and intimate setting with tables and a full bar. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at, by calling 704-372-1000, or at the door (if not sold out).  Proceeds benefit a range of JAI programs, including school-based outreach and a summer music camp.

On May 21, trumpet aficionado Mark Rapp plays the music of jazz master Miles Davis. On, Rapp was recently described as “quickly developing a reputation as a superb interpreter and great stylist, willing to tackle the history of this music with his eyes on the past and his mind on the present and future of this music.” Both performances are highly anticipated and expected to deliver a tremendous after-work set of classic live jazz. 

JAI is busy getting ready for this summer’s Jazz Arts Music Camp, June 24-28. The day camp provides comprehensive music training program for students in grades 7-12 from all over North Carolina. This year, student musicians will learn and work with world renowned saxophonist and music educator Donald Harrison Jr., who is serving as the 2013 Jazz Arts Music Camp guest clinician.  

Past JAI camp clinicians have been international jazz educator Jamey Aebersold and legendary NEA Jazz Master Award recipient/trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis.  The camp’s curriculum includes: small combo performance, jazz improvisation, faculty concerts, student jam sessions, jazz history and listening, jazz theory , composition, master class instruction on bass, drums, guitar, piano, saxophone/woodwinds, and trombone and trumpet.  The camp ends with a culminating Friday evening concert that is open to the public.

As diverse as the jazz itself, JAI supporters include performing jazz artists, educators, patrons of the arts, business leaders, community leaders and volunteers. Together we hope to nurture future audiences, preserve the tradition of jazz music and operate as a catalyst for cultural enrichment and music education that brings creative inspiration to the lives of those in the Charlotte region. 

For information on JAI events and ways to support out mission, visit our website at or call 704-336-9350. 

Lonnie Davis is Executive Director of Jazz Arts Initiative in Charlotte.

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