SAJE celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017!
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Why SAJE isn’t SAAJE (South African Association for Jazz Education) is puzzling, but we wanted it that way as a matter of branding and continuity. SAJE, as we are now celebrating, was established in 1992 as a chapter of IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education) whose name was itself the re-branding in 1988 of NAJE (National Association for Jazz Education) because participation in these US-based conferences became increasingly international.
Internationalization was famously demonstrated by the appearance in Detroit of “The Jazzanians” from the University of Natal (now UKZN). ‘This was the first official South African university student band to tour outside the country and perform at an international jazz conference. IAJE was a confederation of international and US chapters and SAJE was established as one of these international chapters. The founding conference organized by Cathy Brubeck, Anne Pretorius and Glynis Malcolm-Smith was held at Wits University with major sponsorship from SAMRO, IAJE, and the Universities of Natal and Witwatersrand. Dr. Dennis Tini, pianist and then President of IAJE, delivered the keynote address.
The Jazzanians L to R: Zim Ngqawana, Melvin Peters, Johnny Mekoa, Nic Paton, Victor Masondo, Andrew Eagle, and Lulu Gontsana.
Such a formal explanation doesn’t do justice to the imagination, audacity and hard work that went into making all of this possible. The back-story is that Cathy and I were at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1987. We saw an outstanding student group from NAJE perform and learned that such groups toured regularly as part of NAJE’s outreach. Cathy spotted NAJE officials, Richard Dunscombe and Bill McFarlin relaxing in an outdoor café and approached them about a student group from Natal performing at their next conference. I was reluctant because of the image of South Africa at the time, but we started a conversation that resulted in an invitation to the Detroit conference in 1988. One thing we knew for sure is that we had an amazing cohort of students at the time. Some of them are still well known; Johnny Mekoa, Zim Ngqawana, Melvin Peters, Andrew Eagle, Victor Masondo, Rick van Heerden, Nic Paton, Lulu Gontsana and Kevin Gibson.
Their success provided a springboard for interest in original South African jazz and jazz education in South Africa. After a few years of fundraising and lobbying, principally by Cathy Brubeck as the ‘Special Projects’ organizer for the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at UKZN, SAJE was launched with participation from eighteen educational institutions at all levels. This significant event at the Bozolli Pavilion in Johannesburg featured music by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Hugh Masekela, Dennis Tini (accompanied by Victor Ntoni and Lulu Gontsana), Marc Duby, Chris Merz and a host of others including Mike Campbell and myself.
Inspired by the great music and educational expertise presented at IAJE’s annual conferences, we continued to send groups to participate – not every year - and the relationship with IAJE became ever closer, especially as some of our students went overseas to study. Because of this affiliation over the last 25 years we have all benefitted from donations of library materials, instruments and many exchanges of staff and students. Finally, huge congratulations are due to all those, especially to Mike and Di Rossi, who continue to make SAJE a successful organization of international stature in its own right.
First President of SAJE: 1992-1994
- Brief History of the South African Association for Jazz Education
Members come from all geographic regions of the country and include professional musicians and student members as well as music teachers from community projects, secondary and tertiary institutions.
Board members and Officers are elected to a two-year term of office, serving until the next conference. Logistics and funding considerations make it too difficult to have an annual national conference, but Board members meet between Conferences and members receive newsletters three to four times a year. In 2009 we introduced the first SAJE Jazz Festival which was hugely successful and well attended. The SAJE Jazz Festival now occurs every two years – thus alternating with the SAJE Jazz Conference. In 2009, 2011 and 2015 SAJE Jazz Festivals were held at the University of Cape Town, and in 2013 the Festival was held at the Centre for Jazz at UKZN in Durban and other jazz venues.
Sponsorship for conferences has come principally from SAMRO (South African Music Rights Organisation) which is a non-profit company formed to administer and protect the rights of South African composers and promote the composing of new music. Other sponsors include host institutions (universities) and participating organizations, and recently, supporting grants from BASA (Business and Arts South Africa).
As with all large academic societies, much of the value has been the international exchanges and networking that bring fresh perspectives and methods to bear on music education in South Africa. The following jazz educators have visited and taught in South Africa: Bart Marantz, Bill Prince, Chris Merz, Butch Miles, Richard Syracuse, Dustin Cox, Dennis Tini, Chris Collins, Bob Sinicrope, John Fedchock, Mike Rossi, John Edward Hasse, Bobby Shew, Fredrik Noren, John Baboian, Ron McCurdy, Willie Hill, Gloria Cooper, Ruben Alvarez, John Thomas, Gordon Vernick, Lou Fischer, Deborah Tanguy, Roberto Zechini, Guilherme Ribeiro, Antonia de Angelis, Emilio Marinelli, and Ronan Guilfoyle amongst others.
Locally, members are working to upgrade the understanding and practice of music of all kinds, however our primary aim during this relatively early period of existence in South Africa is to introduce jazz education wherever feasible, especially at secondary level. SAJE members are therefore eager to offer expertise and effort towards incorporating more jazz-related skills and studies in the national syllabus.
The most important jazz education activity on a national level is the annual National Schools Jazz Festival in Grahamstown which was started by Mike Skipper, former secretary of SAJE. Alan Webster of Stirling High School is now the director of this very popular and valuable education event. www.youthjazz.co.za
The distance between members and affiliated institutions remains a challenge to the establishment of a more cohesive interaction within the organisation, and the way forward here is undoubtedly the internet, a comprehensive SAJE website and other forms of communication like the SAJE Newsletter and FACEBOOK.
SAJE operates as a section 21 company, not for profit organization and is tax-exempt
3 Kings Road, Mowbray 7700, South Africa
- The following information is for historical record only. The IAJE no longer exists.