"What to Listen for in Jazz"
(Finding a New Audience)
- by Don Militello

Last year I was playing in Manhattan at a small jazz club and I ran into an old student of mine whom I hadn't seen since he was six. He had just turned twenty one and was out hitting the clubs in Manhattan for the first time. He was surprised to see me on the stage.

After introducing himself, he said, "I didn't know you played piano!”
“What did you think I was doing in music class?” I replied.
“Well, yes I know you played piano, but I didn't know you played for audiences”

That's when it hit me. Since the late eighties there had always been a disconnect between my performing jazz in NYC and teaching three to seven year-olds in Brooklyn. My students were too young to hang out late at night and their parents were too busy earning money to pay for private school to stop in at a my performances. 

At the time I was happy performing around the city in local clubs where audiences were into the music and supportive of the artists. Since that time, however, the jazz going population has aged and the audiences have dwindled. Now, I realize I missed an opportunity to insure I had listeners in the future.

Late last Fall, I spoke to a Brooklyn club owner about putting on a show for children and their parents early in the evening before the bands played. With a little advertising I was able to fill the club with parents and children between the ages of four and seven eager to be involved in something new. The performance was a success and both the children and their parents gained a fuller understanding of the music that I have loved since I learned to walk.

More and more of todays corporate advertising dollars go towards marketing to children because advertisers know that children are passionate about what they like. When introduced to good music in a manner they can relate to, children can be just as excited about jazz as they are with the latest fad music. And once they make the connection, they will become lifelong dedicated fans.

"What to Listen for in Jazz" provides just the right environment for children to open themselves to the music that for too many and for too long has been a mystery.


Performing Artists International Ltd.