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International Association for Jazz Education Declares Bankruptcy

In an official statement from association president Chuck Owen, the International Association for Jazz Education announced yesterday that it has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Before Owen’s statement was issued to IAJE members and supporters via e-mail, the story was broken in the Seattle Times by jazz critic Paul de Barros. IAJE will be turned over to a trustee, said the report, with its assets to be distributed among creditors. The article named a “perfect storm of bad luck, unchecked growth, fundraising and management failures” for the organization’s demise. In late March, Owen asked IAJE members to make an urgent donation of a minimum $25, but that drive yielded proceeds slightly over $12,000; the organization’s debts are rumored to exceed $1 million. The 2009 edition of the IAJE conference-the organization’s annual flagship event-has been cancelled. It was to take place in Seattle in January. The association closed the doors of its international offices yesterday.

Formed in 1968 as the National Association of Jazz Educators, an umbrella organization for jazz teachers, the group held its first conference in 1973. A name change to the International Association of Jazz Educators came in 1989, and that was fine-tuned in 2001 to the International Association for Jazz Education. Numerous cities hosted the IAJE conference, and the January 2008 event in Toronto reported greatly diminished attendance, down 40 percent from the 7,000-8,000 members of recent years. Reported causes of the low attendance-the “lowest in 10 years” according to Owen-include new passport requirements for U.S. citizens traveling to Canada and the low value of the American dollar.

In 1997, the conference absorbed a convention sponsored by JazzTimes, with the focus expanding to include music industry personnel outside of the field of education. IAJE also hosted the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Awards ceremony, published the Jazz Education Journal and engaged in other jazz-related programs. In his statement, Owen urged the IAJE community “to recognize and remember IAJE for all the tremendous good it has done in the past 40 years,” adding, “the spirit that is IAJE must be rekindled into a new vision for the future.”

Originally Published