The IAJE Crosses the Border
“ Another year, another cornucopia of indelible sights and sounds to press in one ”
Memories of Toronto . . .
After checking in at the Sheraton Hotel on Wednesday afternoon, January 8, several hours before the evening performances that were to open the 30th annual conference of the International Association for Jazz Education (the first ever held outside the continental U.S.), I decided to scope out the area by walking about six or seven blocks to the main venue, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
I was doing fine until I reached Front Street, where the Centre is located, at which point I became rather, shall we say, disoriented (some would say “lost”). After checking out the nearby subway station (no, that wasn’t it) I walked toward the Crowne Plaza Hotel, hoping to find someone there who could point me in the right direction.
I had almost reached the hotel when I saw a man standing on a corner looking about as lost as I was. “Do you know where the Convention Centre is?” he asked.
”No,” I replied, “but I’m going to the hotel here to try and find out.”
“I’ll walk along with you,” he said.
Approaching a young woman who looked to be a hotel employee, I asked if she could show us the way to the Convention Centre. She smiled, nodded her head, ushered us inside, led us to an elevator and instructed us to go down one level where we would find a clearly marked walkway connecting the hotel to the Convention Centre. We thanked her and were on our way.
As we walked along I asked my companion where he was from. “New York,” he replied.
“That’s good for you,” I said, “because the IAJE is holding its conference there again next year, and from what I’ve heard, every other year after that.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s nice to be living there.”
“So,” I continued, exploring other conversational possibilities, “are you a listener, as I am, or a player?”
“I’m a player,” he said.
“What do you play?”
“I play piano.”
“And what’s your name?”
After Kenny picked me up off the floor I told him what a big fan I am, how much I’ve enjoyed his playing on any number of albums over the years. He smiled politely, thanked me and disappeared into the hundreds of others milling about in the Convention Centre lobby. As I watched him go I was thinking that it is memories such as these that help make every IAJE conference a special occasion.
I’d ridden the shuttle from airport to hotel with Chris Vadala, an excellent saxophonist who is director of Jazz Studies at the University of Maryland (I did recognize Chris, having seen him perform at several IAJE conferences in the past). This year, he and trumpeter Bobby Shew were guest soloists Friday afternoon with the Florida Community College Jazz Ensemble from Jacksonville. That was one of a number of impressive performances that we’ll survey in due course. First, the nuts and bolts.
More than six thousand educators, admininistrators, musicians, students, music dealers, exhibitors, journalists and Jazz enthusiasts attended this year’s historic event, which included performances, workshops, clinics, panel discussions, research presentations, technological discussions, interviews with such renowned Jazz artists as pianist Oscar Peterson, and of course the usual mammoth exhibit hall with its captivating array of booths promoting schools, record labels, sheet music distributors, the media, Jazz festivals, instrument manufacturers, the armed forces and other special interest groups. Sessions were held at the Convention Centre and the nearby Fairmont Royal York Hotel, about which more later.
Every year brings with it a number of meaningful awards and presentations, and the 2003 IAJE President’s Award, which honors individuals for extraordinary contributions in the field of Jazz education, was presented, appropriately enough, to Canada’s own Oscar Peterson, a giant of the piano for more than half a century and co-founder of Toronto’s Advanced School of Contemporary Music. In cooperation with the National Endowment for the Arts, three musicians are singled out annually as “American Jazz Masters” for their remarkable contributions to the Jazz tradition. This year’s honorees, each of whom received a one-time-only Fellowship grant of $20,000, were saxophonist Jimmy Heath, drummer Elvin Jones and vocalist Abbey Lincoln (who was in Toronto but unable to attend the Friday evening ceremony, having been taken ill earlier in the day).