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James Williams Jazz Series Education Program & Community Involvement

During the recently completed season, the “We Always Swing”® Jazz Series enthusiastically scheduled an abundance of educational activities and community events, which made it the organization’s most ambitious effort in these areas to date. The 25th Anniversary Season continues that trend with educational/community activities taking place in auditoriums, gymnasiums, classrooms, retail outlets and elsewhere as well as both indoors and outdoors. As central to our mission, we look to hold court in atypical spaces in addition to the more often-used locations with the intended result of our education programs and community activities serving to measurably enhance not only the Jazz Series concert schedule, but also overall awareness of jazz.

We continue to enjoy a close relationship with the Columbia Public School District Community Programs and its District Fine Arts Area, which insures and reinforces collaboration, involvement and participation. Similarly, our longstanding relationship with the MU School of Music and its Director of Jazz Studies Sam Griffith continues to thrive — particularly so because Griffith is now a Jazz Series board member. The enhanced communication/interaction with music education and jazz students has the dual increasing opportunities for students to perform in public settings as well as having visiting professionals here to perform in concert, deliver master classes during their stay.

We’re pleased to note expanded joint activities with the school district’s impressive city-wide Partner-in-Education Program. With well over 100 area businesses “adopting” a school of their choice, the opportunity to have partners collaborate with the Jazz Series to have related activities take place within specific schools is substantial. The organization continues to reach out to schools and their partners to help us increase the number of in-school jazz programs taking place at their P-I-E schools

In the Community

On the community front, the level of activity continues to percolate. “Jazz Appreciation Month” programs, taking place each April 1–30, continue to blossom. During the most recent April — 2019 — the Jazz Series produced 25 events during the month’s 30 days with all but three events falling under either an educational or community umbrella. This includes our Annual Children’s Concerts taking place in Hickman High School’s auditorium, students performing in various retail locations, some involving visiting artists, as well as our working with the area’s professional musicians, who held concerts in a number of public spaces.

Several educational activities and community events are planned as part of the Jazz Series’ 25th Anniversary Season with events added as they develop.

About James Williams

In 2005, the Jazz Series chose to “umbrella” the entirety of its education component in recognition of James Williams (3/8/51–7/20/04). As many know, he was a wonderful pianist — and a first-call major figure on the world jazz scene. Williams also was a dedicated educator. He worked in classroom settings in well-known jazz institutions such as the Berklee College of Music and William Paterson College, where he served as Director of Jazz Studies from 1999 until his death, when he succumbed to liver cancer at age 53.

Williams never missed an opportunity to share his knowledge. A member of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers (1977–1981), the pianist knew about “on-the-job” (read: on the bandstand) training; as such, he carried on that tradition when he became a bandleader. Williams first appeared locally here a full decade ahead of the Jazz Series’ 1995 start. A Memphis native, he subsequently made several Jazz Series appearances leading a variety of bands. His final Jazz Series appearance took place on June 14, 2003, a co-led duo “House Concert” with saxophonist Bobby Watson. The Jazz Series preserved the performance and subsequent to Williams’ passing, released the well-received Soulful Serendipity (WASJS-1001). The live session captures Watson and Williams — the two Jazz Messengers colleagues — in a most intimate musical occasion with all proceeds from the sale of the recording going to the Jazz Series Education Program.

Strengthen the James Williams Jazz Series Education Program & Jazz in the Community.

Please consider contributing to Jazz Series education programs. You gift is tax-deductible and you will help ensure the Jazz Series continue to offer an extensive array of educational programs making them available to students and the public at little or no cost. When you fill out your ticket order form just add the amount you choose to contribute. For those who contribute $60 or greater, we are pleased to offer you a copy of Soulful Serendipity. Thank you.

Jazz Series Education Sponsors

Missouri Employers Mutual
Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity
Jazz Education Network
Missouri Lottery
MU School of Music
Orscheln
US Bank


*All performances/personnel, dates are subject to Pandemic Developments. We adhere to Boone Co./Columbia Health Dept. & CDC Guidelines.

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The "We Always Swing”® Jazz Series is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation administered by “We Always Swing,” Inc. The Jazz Series is supported by: concert revenue; federal, state and local grants and contracts; corporate sponsorships; underwriting and advertising-derived income; and by the generosity of individuals who make tax-deductible contributions. “We Always Swing”® and “The Swinging Saxophonist”™ logo are registered trademarks of “We Always Swing,”® Inc./National Pastimes Productions™ and may not be reproduced in print or digital format without prior consent.