The Vermont Jazz Center has been honored with a national Acclaim Award from Chamber Music America. The award recognizes arts organizations around the country for “extraordinary cultural contributions” in the regions they serve.
The award was presented Saturday at a concert at the jazz center’s performance space at the Cotton Mill, an old Brattleboro factory. Vermont Jazz Center Director Eugene Uman says the space invites creativity.
"The sound is great," Uman says. "And the music has such good energy from having hundreds and hundreds of concerts."
Concerts are just part of the center’s repertoire. There are music lessons, a summer workshop, and collaborations with schools. There’s also a weekly jam session, where community members of all ages and abilities get to play with seasoned musicians.
"That’s very unusual, to have a place that invites the community in that very significant kind of way," says Margaret Lioi. Lioi is the CEO of Chamber Music America, a national organization for music professionals. Its definition of chamber music goes beyond classical to include jazz and other music played by small ensembles. Lioi says there are small, high quality chamber music organizations all over the country that don’t get a lot of national recognition. The Acclaim Award was established to celebrate their work.
Lioi says the Vermont Jazz Center brings artists of the highest caliber to audiences that might not otherwise hear them. Uman, the center’s director, delights in seeing that happen.
"Here we are in a rural town of 12,000 people," Uman says. "And yet we’ve got world-class music that you might hear at the Village Vanguard in New York City and people who have something different to say that hasn’t been heard before."
Uman says the late Atilla Zoller, the celebrated jazz guitarist, established that standard. Zoller launched the jazz center in the 1970s, when his urban musician friends started coming up for jam sessions at his Newfane country home. Uman says his goal is to provide audiences and experiences that keep those artists coming.