A Great Cause, a Great Night of Music

A Great Cause, a Great Night of Music

Wednesday night, our firm co-sponsored an event at The Triple Door called Soundtrack for the Future, which raises scholarship money for a local jazz education program called JazzEd, started five years ago by some parents of student musicians.

The event sold out thanks to pianist Jon Batiste and his band Stay Human, who performed a great set of music. Batiste is from New Orleans, went to Julliard, and now lives in New York City. Only 28, he’s already a star in jazz circles. He plays, composes, is an educator, and has even done a little acting on the side (he was cast in the HBO series, ‘Treme’).

JazzEd is a terrific organization in south Seattle that teaches jazz to students in grades 4-12, regardless of musical or financial ability. The idea is pretty simple. They believe music can transform lives and that every kid should have the chance to learn whether or not they can afford instruments or teachers. Not every school has a good music program or one at all, and JazzEd hopes to fill that gap.

Several of our clients are board members of JazzEd and encouraged us to get involved. A lot of the people who run the program are musicians themselves, or are parents of former students. It started out as a small concern of band parents, but quickly grew into a well-organized, widely respected program with 350 students (40 percent get financial aid) from 75 schools, who are learning from some of the best instructors around.

It’s hard to understate how many talented kids are playing jazz around here, and what a force jazz education is in the Seattle area. Here’s one way to put it into perspective:

In about two months, 15 of the best high school jazz bands in North America will gather at New York’s Lincoln Center to compete in the Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival. Three of the bands are from the Seattle area: Garfield, Roosevelt, and Mount Si High School.

Since the competition was opened to schools all over the U.S. and Canada in 1999, Garfield and Roosevelt have dominated the event. Garfield has gone all but three years and has won or placed seven times. Roosevelt failed to qualify for the competition only once and has won or placed 10 times. No other school has come close. The judges aren’t playing favorites. Application to the competition is done by blind recording; the judges don’t know which bands they’re listening to.

Shorewood High, Mountlake Terrace, Battle Ground, Newport, and Edmonds-Woodway are also repeat competitors at Ellington, and a half-dozen more Washington state schools have gone at least once. That success can be explained only by the quality of the jazz instruction around here, which is what JazzEd hopes to build on.

JazzEd is a great cause that we chose to support so we could help inspire and educate children.  Helping make the lives of others richer will only make our own lives richer. You can help by making a donation or hiring their musicians for an event.

We hope it inspires you to make an investment of some kind in your community, whether it’s money, time, or expertise. The particular cause you choose is not the most important thing. The important thing is that you share what you can, that your wealth also reflects your values.

Making an investment in your community is the kind of financial behavior we encourage. It strengthens bonds with people around you. It moves you away from the habit of simply accumulating wealth, and forces you to become a steward of it. The virtuous cycle of giving and helping is a good habit to develop as you build wealth, because wealth without values is just a number on a piece of paper.

John Christianson
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