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Member Spotlight

Jazz Bridge

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16+ Years of Dedicated Service; 1,200+ Performance Opportunities Created; 500+ Emergency Service Grants Awarded

Tell us a little about your organization!

In 2004, well known pianist Eddie Green fell ill.  He couldn’t make his gigs, which also meant he couldn’t pay his bills. He put pride aside and reached out to his dear friend, retired nurse and singer, Suzanne Cloud, who called some friends to help. That June, Eddie and group took the stage at the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival.  Due to illness, Eddie could only play one song and - just a few weeks later, passed away from pancreatic cancer.

Suzanne eulogized him: “Acts of continuous creation and an absolute belief in spiritual healing through music allow for a special kind of grace under pressure, and I thought: This is how a jazz musician faces death.”

Brought together by this loss, Suzanne and fellow Jazz vocalist Wendy Simon decided to create a better way to address the essential needs of members of the Jazz and Blues community.  And Jazz Bridge Project was formed!  Seventeen years later, the organization has assisted hundreds of Jazz and Blues musicians living in the Greater Philadelphia Metro area who face financial, health, housing and similar crises.

A registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, Jazz Bridge has also supported more than 1,200 musicians by providing paid performance opportunities through our live neighborhood concerts and special event presentations. These concerts celebrate the Philadelphia Jazz & Blues tradition and build cultural awareness throughout the region.

How have you grown as an organization?

Since its inception, Jazz Bridge has confidentially helped Jazz and Blues musicians and singers with a variety of needs, including medical, dental and legal aid, home repairs, unpaid bills, and instrument repair.  In the last 16 years alone, Jazz Bridge has provided emergency services grants for over 600 artists. And we’ve helped other performers by connecting them to other available resources. 

A related part of our mission is proactive – to stave off financial crises by helping to keep the musicians working. To this end, we’ve provided over 1,200 paid performance opportunities for musicians in our area through our Neighborhood Concerts and partnerships with the City of Philadelphia and other non-profit organizations.

We’ve also stepped up to respond to musicians’ increased needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been so disruptive to their ability to earn a livelihood.  With “seed money” from a committed foundation and matching funds raised from our dedicated and generous supporters, we were able to establish a COVID Relief Fund and award dozens of “micro grants” so musicians could pay for basic essentials like housing, prescription drugs, groceries and utilities bills.

What made you want to join the Cultural Alliance and/or What do you value the most about your Cultural Alliance Membership?

Our membership with the Cultural Alliance has allowed us to connect with other organizations, form valuable partnerships, gain knowledge about the arts community, and bring more visibility to our organization.

Especially as we all grappled with the pandemic, the Cultural Alliance was a lifeline to connect with other organizations also learning the “new normal” - how to navigate through difficult times and come up with new ways to move forward and pivot from what we previously did as an advocate for musicians AND as a presenter. We learned more about available resources and how to support each other during these uncertain times. What we valued most was that we were not alone in this and that our concerns were similar to those of other arts organizations.

What are you most excited about for this season/that is coming up?

After a period when we were limited in the number and kinds of paid virtual performances we could provide to musicians, we were excited to “get our feet wet” again with in-person concerts in outdoor settings this past summer and early fall.  In partnership with Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., we were able to safely present music to communities in his district through 14 well-received concerts.

As of October, Jazz Bridge has resumed our Neighborhood Concerts series at three indoor venues in Philadelphia, and Cheltenham, PA and in Collingswood, NJ. Going forward, we are excited about renewing our partnership with the City’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) and to sharing our thoughts on Jazz Appreciation Month (April 2022) concerts in libraries. We are also excited about the possibilities of working with other organizations who need musicians for their special events. And at our Collingswood venue, we are currently collaborating with local visual artists to showcase their creations during our concerts.  Our Cheltenham venue is a non-profit arts center with artworks already on display, but we are looking at how this concept could be incorporated in our Philadelphia and Cheltenham concerts.

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