Jazz Road Launches With Lead Funding From Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

A jazz quartet plays in a moody and dark jazz club
Jazz Road Tours grant recipient Oscar Peñas Quartet. Photo by Jared Cruz courtesy of South Arts.

First Collaboration Between Regional Arts Organizations Charts New Paths to Touring for Jazz Artists Nationwide, Connecting Them with More Communities Across the U.S. 

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) today announced its most significant effort to date to help invigorate the field of jazz and support contemporary jazz artists in broadening their reach to new audiences across the country. 

 The foundation’s Arts Program is funding South Arts, based in Atlanta, Ga., to launch Jazz Road, a national program designed to expand jazz artists’ touring to a wide range of communities. This landmark re-granting program, once launched, will be the nation’s most extensive jazz touring support system. Through Jazz Road, all six of the country’s Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs) will collaborate long term on formal programming for the first time in their histories, forging a national network that enables jazz musicians to tour to the widest possible cross-section of communities, as well as maximize existing resources outside major urban areas. The effort will be led by South Arts, the RAO that represents the geographic region where jazz was born. South Arts serves Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. 

 “While artists across the country are collaborating and re-creating the tradition of jazz in unprecedented ways, the field faces a serious challenge in the lack of national support mechanisms from which other disciplines benefit,” said Maurine Knighton, program director for the arts at DDCF. “We are proud to have worked with South Arts to bring this project to fruition and excited to support it as it partners with its peer organizations to ensure that more American communities can benefit from the remarkable work of jazz artists. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is pleased to welcome the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as a funding partner, as well.” 

 The idea for Jazz Road was born out of what DDCF has learned from in-depth research and field-wide conversations about the absence of and need for coordinated support systems for the field of jazz. Jazz Road reinforces DDCF’s longstanding commitment to the lives and careers of jazz musicians – the artists who steward and advance what many call “America’s classical music.” The program also speaks to the communal nature of the musical form by seeking to more deeply connect jazz artists to communities across the country and broaden audiences. 

Learn more about Jazz Road at the South Arts website.  

About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation 

 The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environment, medical research and child well-being, and through the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. 

 The Arts Program of DDCF has provided grants to the jazz field since the foundation was established in 1997. In her will, Doris Duke, who studied jazz piano and composition throughout her life, expressed her interest in assisting performing artists in fulfilling their ambitions and providing opportunities for the public presentation of their work. Given this guidance and Doris Duke’s interests during her life, the foundation focuses its funding on contemporary dance, jazz and theater artists, and the organizations that nurture, present and produce them. To learn more, visit www.ddcf.org. 

Two older light-skinned adults with short hair sit at a table together. One of the people is wearing a light purple shirt with curly short white hair and is holding a paper cut out of a hand up to their own hand and smiling.
Mini art lesson at Silver Threads Assisted Living in Gregory, South Dakota. Photo by Prairie Feather Photography. Courtesy of Gregory Horizons and Arts Midwest.