Spirit of Detroit Award

In a poignant 2013 Jazz Network Foundation anniversary ceremony that resonates with the heartbeats of Detroit, Bill Foster, the venerable founder of the Jazz Network Foundation, was honored with the esteemed Spirit of Detroit Award. This accolade, conferred upon those who embody the resilience and soul of the city, is a resounding affirmation of Foster’s profound impact on Detroit’s cultural landscape.

The Spirit of Detroit Award, a recognition of extraordinary contribution and commitment to the people of Detroit, found a deserving recipient in Foster. His tireless work through the Jazz Network Foundation has rekindled the flame of jazz in the city, fostering new talent and providing a platform for the legends of jazz to shine once more. This award is not just a personal achievement for Foster; it is a testament to the Foundation’s success in nurturing a vibrant jazz community.

This honor speaks volumes about the city’s recognition of jazz as an integral part of its identity. Foster’s leadership in bringing jazz education and performance to the forefront has not only preserved the legacy of jazz in Detroit but has also positioned the genre as a key player in the city’s ongoing renaissance. The Spirit of Detroit Award presented to Bill Foster is a beacon of inspiration, echoing the Jazz Network Foundation’s belief that music can be a transformative force for good in the community.

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Jazz-Off: Revitalizing Detroit’s Jazz Scene with Knight Foundation’s Support

Detroit, MI: In the heart of Detroit, a new rhythm is pulsating, breathing new life into the city’s historic jazz scene. The Jazz-Off, an innovative program by the Jazz Network Foundation, has become a beacon of cultural renaissance, thanks in part to a generous matching fund grant of $20,000 from the Knight Foundation.

A New Chapter in Detroit’s Jazz Legacy

Jazz-Off isn’t just a competition; it’s a movement. Conceived by the Jazz Network Foundation, founded by jazz veteran Bill Foster, this initiative seeks to rekindle Detroit’s once-thriving jazz culture. The program involves a competition for solo and group jazz artists, aimed at discovering and showcasing the finest talents in Detroit’s jazz scene.

The Knight Foundation’s Role

The Knight Foundation, known for its commitment to fostering artistic excellence, has recognized the potential of Jazz-Off in its mission to revitalize the cultural landscape of Detroit. The $20,000 grant is not just a financial boost; it’s a vote of confidence in the power of music to bring about social and economic rejuvenation.

The Competition: A Melting Pot of Talent

Jazz-Off’s competition format is a masterstroke in inclusivity and excellence. Divided into two age groups – under and over 30 – it bridges generational gaps and creates mentorship opportunities. The under-30 band infuses the competition with fresh, innovative ideas, while the over-30 band offers wisdom and experience, creating a rich tapestry of jazz styles and techniques.

Beyond the Stage

But Jazz-Off’s ambitions go beyond discovering talent. The program includes workshops on jazz etiquette, jamming techniques, and interactive sessions for jazz enthusiasts and newcomers alike. This educational aspect ensures that Jazz-Off is not only about entertainment but also about enlightenment and engagement with the art form.

Impact on Detroit’s Socio-Economic Fabric

The significance of Jazz-Off extends to Detroit’s socio-economic recovery. By bringing jazz to unconventional venues and tapping into the city’s rich musical heritage, the program is playing a crucial role in changing perceptions about Detroit, attracting business and investment, and fostering a sense of community pride.

Digital Innovation

In an era where digital presence is key, Jazz-Off leverages a dynamic website and social media to create buzz. Live streaming of events makes the program accessible to a broader audience, further amplifying its impact.

Conclusion: A Symphony of Collaboration

Jazz-Off stands as a testament to what can be achieved when passion for music converges with purposeful funding. The Knight Foundation’s support has been instrumental in turning this vision into a vibrant reality. As Jazz-Off continues to grow, it not only celebrates Detroit’s jazz heritage but also heralds a future where music is an integral part of the city’s resurgence. In the words of Bill Foster, “We’re not just playing jazz; we’re igniting a cultural revolution, one note at a time.”

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Bill Foster: Jazz Hero

Bill Foster, Detroit’s 2014 Jazz Hero, has been a strong advocate of the city’s arts for almost 60 years, promoting jazz all the while, and is currently working towards Detroit’s revitalization. Most of his efforts have been facilitated through The Jazz Network Foundation, a non-profit organization which he founded in 1992, and through which he has presented numerous concerts, workshops, art shows, dance performances, poetry and plays.

Raised and educated in Detroit, Bill promoted his first concert in 1956. It was headlined by pianist Harold McKinney and drummer Roy Brooks, and featured in Jet magazine. Moving to Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1960s, Bill promoted local artists as well as nationally touring acts there, also hosting a live jazz radio show on WCUY-FM and program of recorded jazz on WERE-FM. Returning to Detroit in the 1970s, Bill continued to work with artists representing his passion — a brief list of those who have performed under his auspices includes Dwight Adams, Bill Banfield, Marcus Belgrave, Ben’s Friends Big Band, Ron Blake, George Bohanon, Buddy Budson, Oscar Brown Jr., James Carter, Kenn Cox, Tommy Flanagan, FRA FRA Sound, Charlie Gabriel, Roy Hargrove, Winard Harper, Dr. Teddy Harris, Bob Hurst, Milt Jackson, Sean Jones, Eugene Maslov, Mulgrew Miller, Steve Nelson, Johnny O’Neal, Michael Rabinowitz, Kareem Riggins, Vanessa Rubin, Straight Ahead, Donald Walden, Ursula Walker, Michael Wolff, Rodney Whitaker, Lenny White and Buster Williams.

Bill developed and established venues such as the SereNgeti Ballroom and also the SereNgeti Galleries to showcase local, national and international artists. The Balloom hosted “Thursday Night Jam Sessions” and youth development programs hosted by Harold McKinney; the Galleries became home to the National Jazz Orchestra (which Bill directed, and which performed at the Detroit Jazz Festival for four consecutive years), as well as the Youth in Music Program and several African dance troupes. It served as a community cultural center that specialized in exhibiting African and Haitian artwork. “It’s a great concept; you can come to an art exhibit that turns into a jazz concert or a jazz concert that turns into an art exhibit,” he says.

Bill’s efforts have not gone unnoticed: he was honored by the Detroit Jazz Festival as a recipient of its Jazz Guardian Award in 2007 and in September, 2013 received the Spirit of Detroit Award from the City of Detroit as well as a Knight Foundation Arts Challenge award. His concept for the Knight Foundation Arts Challenge is Jazz-Off Detroit, which will assemble two jazz ensembles through performance competitions, one consisting of musicians 30 years of age or older and the other of musicians under 30. The JJA’s Jazz Hero Award is not, of course, tied to any age requirement or restriction — it just asserts that Bill Foster deserves applause as an activist, advocate, altruist, aider and abettor of jazz.

-Viva C. Foster

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