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BRATTLEBORO — Arts organizations are known for bringing people together to experience a heightened understanding of what it means to be human. How can we come together to collectively view and listen to artists whose creations challenge and delight us? How can we access their inspirational work and refreshing perspectives in the midst of a pandemic? These are some of the puzzles that arts organizations around the world are trying to solve.

Through creative strategies, diligence and an outpouring of support from the community, the VJC has been successful in using new technologies to forward its mission. In addition, the VJC has received significant funds from grant-giving organizations as well as state and federal programs. Thanks to this combination of circumstances, the Vermont Jazz Center continues to offer classes, performance events and community outreach.

Like organizations throughout the area, the Jazz Center was shocked by the rapid onslaught of COVID-19. Concerts and ongoing ensembles were canceled, which resulted in a significant shortage of earned income. Fortunately, thanks to the assistance of grant writer, Jed Blume, a Payroll Protection Grant and CARES Act grant channeled through the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development were quick in arriving. These were soon followed by help from the Vermont Arts Council/Vermont Humanities Council’s COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Arts Council’s Arts Impact Fund. The VJC was also supported by a Resilience Fund grant from New England Foundation of the Arts (NEFA), a Vermont reVTA technology assistance grant from the Regional Development Corporations of Vermont as well as generous gifts from the Thompson Trust and the Dunham-Mason Foundation. The Center is deeply grateful to these institutions.

In early 2020, prior to the pandemic, the Jazz Center also won a prestigious grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to preserve and digitize past performances of VJC’s founder, Atilla Zoller. The award helped to further the ongoing VJC Archive Project’s ultimate goal of providing digital access to the Center’s trove of performances by legendary jazz artists. The CLIR grant is specifically earmarked to make Zoller’s recordings, the oldest in the VJC’s collection, accessible to the public. These historic recordings include performances with Zoller in the company of Lee Konitz, Scott LaFaro, Reggie Workman, Fred Hersch, Lew Tabackin and many others. Thanks to the CLIR grant, these fragile, rare recordings of jazz luminaries are now in the hands of the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass., where digitization is being undertaken by highly skilled technicians.

The VJC is maintaining optimism amidst these difficult times and has exciting programming planned through the New Year that includes a full-fledged, virtual Emerging Artist Festival Friday and Saturday involving world-class artists from New York City as well as activities with area schools. The VJC’s beloved Swing Gala will also prevail on Dec. 12, featuring the VJC 7 plus special guest vocalist Wanda Houston. For more information, visit vtjazz.org for listings of ongoing concerts and classes.

Eugene Uman is the director of the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro.


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