Hans Schuman knows the often numbing drudgery that running even a successful non-profit organization can mean.
“There is that stretch of time when you’re not on the road, when you’re going to the office every day, when you’re looking for funding and still getting rejection letters even after you can say ‘but we did this,” he said. “There’s always that Sisyphian task of pushing a rock uphill.”
Schuman — founder, artistic and executive director of JazzReach, a national program. He speaks of “those privileged moments, when we’re in the theatre, there are a lot of kids in the audience, and we’re there to do what we do, and there is an audience participation segment and you really hear the crowd singing and it sounds good, then it all seems to sort of come together.
“That’s the fuel that keeps you going.”
Schuman, 44, has been running on that fuel for 18 years, since he founded JazzReach to expose school children to jazz as a way of growing the audience for the music he loves. Fortunately for the music and our kids, Schuman has had moments aplenty.
JazzReach estimates that more than 250,000 youngsters across the country have been exposed to its many programs, with another 30,000 expected to take part in this year’s programs, which include stops in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dubuque and Des Moines, Iowa, and, on June 13-15, a stint at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan as part of the Blue Note Jazz Fest.
The various incarnations of JazzReach’s resident ensemble, Metta Quintet (Schuman is the drummer, of course) has released three well-received albums, the latest being “Big Drums/Small World,” a collection of commissioned tracks by musicians from Israel, Cuba, India, Puerto Rico and the U.S. that Schuman said is meant to show how jazz has been adopted and changed by cultures around the world.
The group’s 2002 CD, “Going to Meet the Man,” consisted of commissioned works based on short stories by novelist and Harlem native and novelist James Baldwin.
Schuman has created multi-media productions in which actors and musicians simultaneously present educational programs on musical icons Duke Ellington and Miles Davis.
Professional musicians have embraced JazzReach’s cause. Jack DeJohnette, Christian McBride, Antonio Sanchez, Bruce Hornsby, Ravi Coltrane, Jane Mohheit and Kenny Garrett are just a few of the working musicians who have done benefits or otherwise supported the group’s efforts.
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