The mission of the New England Jazz Hall of Fame is to celebrate and preserve the tradition of Jazz in New England.
Principally an online resource, the Hall was established in 2001 by the New England Jazz Alliance (NEJA), an all-volunteer non-profit group who defined the mission and set about the task of achieving it. To bring the story of New England Jazz to audiences in various settings around the region, NEJA created a traveling exhibit that highlights the accomplishments of the Hall’s inductees. These easel-mounted panels are displayed at jazz festivals and cultural events throughout the region.
A Renewed Focus on History
Originally established in Boston in 2001, the Hall has lived a virtual existence through this website, as well as a nomadic one through a traveling exhibit that has made its way around New England for over ten years. Now, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has offered the Hall of Fame a permanent, physical home, and extending its welcome with an opening ceremony and concert on April 29, 2017 at the Alden Memorial Hall. The event is open to the public and free to all.
It was always a goal of the Hall’s founders to set roots in a community where jazz is appreciated and where the historical information would be more widely accessible. By establishing a physical presence at WPI, students, researchers, and jazz fans alike can access the Hall of Fame’s history at its permanent home in Worcester. This city is an hour’s drive from New England’s three most populous state capitals—Boston, Providence, and Hartford—as well as from the home of America’s first and greatest jazz festival, Newport, RI.
The Hall of Fame Meets Jazz Appreciation Month
The Smithsonian Institution first declared April as Jazz Appreciation Month in 2002, thus making the April 29 announcement both timely and relevant to the celebration of jazz, America’s classical music. To add a bit more local flavor to the event, April 29 also happens to be Duke Ellington’s birthday. Three of Ellington’s most recognized stars—Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, and Paul Gonsalves—were among the first inductees to enter the New England Jazz Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame Traveling Exhibit
The New England Jazz Hall of Fame exhibit consists of 21 panels, each measuring 4x3 feet, with the lead panel acting as an introduction. Each of the others is dedicated to one of the 20 Hall inductees, and contains biographical material, outstanding photographs by some of America’s most accomplished photographers, and a short appreciation piece by an outstanding jazz writer.
The panels can be hung or displayed on the easels provided. When facilities allow, the exhibit also may include additional paintings, music and memorabilia related to the New England jazz scene. NEJA’s presentations work best when they are paired with local concerts, initiatives, or courses of study.
Thanks to relationships with outstanding jazz artists, educators, photographers, writers, broadcasters, film makers, and historians, NEJA can supplement its exhibit with a variety of programs to accommodate audiences of all ages and special interests.