In 1994, Vincent York developed the interactive educational program that became known as Vincent York’s Jazzistry. In 2001, this enterprise evolved into a nonprofit 501(c)(3). Jazzistry is an original word (jazz + history + artistry = Jazzistry) that captures the essence of a dynamic way to teach American history and culture through the live performance of the many different styles of music that evolved into jazz.
The Jazzistry band takes students on a live musical tour across time and space, passing through four centuries and across four continents, turning school auditoriums into multicultural musical time machines. The interactive multimedia program literally swings through an unforgettable history lesson that excites learning and connects students, teachers and others to our shared American heritage.
Jazzistry’s story begins 400 years ago in colonial America. Musical traditions carried to the New World in the hearts of enslaved West Africans were integrated with European and Latin musical traditions creating new musical forms that are uniquely American. Jazzistry showcases the evolution of America’s music demonstrating the multicultural integration that comprises our culture.
In 2000, WEMU funded five Jazzistry performances. Additional funding from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, corporate support and individual donations, made it possible for Jazzistry to perform at 14 schools, one hospital and a juvenile correction center. Mr. York conducted a 12-school, 2-week artist-in-residency in Saginaw, Michigan, sponsored by Dow Corning and the Saginaw Community Enrichment Commission.
Since 2001 with funding from: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts, WEMU, Dan Cameron Foundation, Rosebud Foundation, Pfizer Community Grant, corporate support and individual donations, Jazzistry has given over 350 presentations for schools, community events, music festivals, church youth forums, colleges, and educational conferences.
Most Jazzistry gigs occur during the day within a 60-90 minutes driving radius of Detroit. Increasingly, invitations are coming from schools and communities outside of that radius since Jazzistry has achieved statewide (and national) recognition through key conference presentations over the past few years.
The full Jazzistry program includes a staff development workshop, artist visits and a band presentation of 45 to 90 minutes depending on the age of the audience.
In 2008, Jazzistry won statewide recognition for its unique contributions to arts education when it received the Annual Guvvy (Governor’s) Arts Education Organization Award.