The Jazz Institute of Chicago was founded in 1969 by a small band of jazz fans, writers, club owners and musicians who came together to preserve the historical roots of the Chicago's music and to ensure that opportunities for the music to be heard would not be lost in a time when rock was subsuming cultural economics. Among the founding members were trad pianist Art Hodes, Muhal Richard Abrams, who a few years earlier had also co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Harriett Choice, then music writer for the Chicago Tribune, Joe Segal, whose Jazz Showcase has kept the flame for bebop lit for 50 years, Bob Koester, owner of Delmark Records, Don DeMicheal, drummer and editor of Downbeat magazine, jazz promoter and supporter Penny Tyler and several other devoted souls.
The operating principle was, and continues to be based on the recognition that all forms of the music should be equally represented in whatever we do. From the Annual Jazz Fair that we began in 1979 to the Chicago Jazz Festival which we began programming in 1979, to the hundreds of concerts and programs presented all over the city, we have sought to open peoples' ears to new music by standing the familiar and the unfamiliar side by side. In the 80's we brought a jazz curriculum into the Chicago Public High Schools that became a template for similar programs all over the country.
In 1997 we began a partnership with the Chicago Park District. The citywide JazzCity concert series brings Chicago's stellar talent right into the neighborhoods, for free. In 1999 the American Composers Forum joined us in initiating the Chicago Composers Project, to commission composers to create collaborative compositions with residents of the city's communities. We began by celebrating the storied history of Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood--home to Louis Armstrong and numerous other important jazz innovators. Then to Humboldt Park where Afro-Caribbean music found it's way into the city's heartbeat. In 2001 the diversity of Asian communities in Chicago was explored and in 2002 our large Polish population contributed to the effort.
Our Jazz Links education programs are a partnership with music teachers working in Chicago public schools. It jumped off in 2003 with musician residencies in public high schools, the regeneration of the All City High School Jazz Band Competition and monthly Jazz Links Student Jam Sessions. We have since developed dynamic professional development workshops and a summer camp for jazz band teachers and a Student Council whose members perform around the city.
We undertake these endeavors because we want to ensure that new audiences continue to be developed for the music, and that Chicago's place in its history be recognized and presented. We are committed to ensuring that the great jazz legacy of Chicago will continue to enrich and inspire our lives for many generations to come.