Press Releases


Local music program, Vincent York’s JAZZistry wins national award

Nov. 15, 2016

Contact: Vincent York

Phone: 734-761-6024        Email:


Ann Arbor’s Vincent York’s JAZZistry was recently awarded the Rose Duhon-Sells Award from the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME). Veteran jazz horn virtuoso and educator Vincent York’s JAZZistry program received the prestigious Founder’s Award for Outstanding Multicultural Program.

York’s lively multimedia presentation uses metro Detroit’s best musicians to take students and teachers on a musical journey that summarizes 400 years of American history—from work songs and ragtime to fusion and funk, from West Africa to Harlem, from Scott Joplin to John Coltrane, from Bebop to Hip Hop. The presentation swings through the centuries as it demystifies the multicultural story of America and builds understanding of how American culture developed. Schools enjoy an unforgettable blend of live performance and storytelling that swings across the globe and through the centuries. JAZZistry’s resources and teaching strategies make connections in language arts, math, science, as well as history and music. JAZZistry demonstrates the distinctive aspect of our shared history in which diverse cultural influences blend into one uniquely American culture. As York says, “The history is in the music, and the music IS our history!”

Ann Arbor’s Vincent York, the Founder and Artistic Director of JAZZistry, is an accomplished musician who plays alto, tenor and soprano saxophones; clarinet, oboe, flute and piccolo. His introduction to the music of Charlie Parker in the ninth grade ignited his exploration and love for jazz. He attended Southern University at Baton Rouge as a music education major and switched to become the first jazz studies major under clarinetist Alvin Batiste. After graduate study in classical saxophone at the University of Michigan under Donald Sinta, York toured with the Duke Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington. In 1977, he formed the band Vincent York’s new York Force. York’s first recording was voted Best Jazz Album of the Year by MetroTimes. York has recorded or played with noteworthy jazz artists such as Ray Charles, Marcus Belgrave, Louis Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Motown names such as The Temptations, The Four Tops and Aretha Franklin. He was also the musical director for Martha Reeves.

In 1994, realizing what little exposure American students had to the historical significance of jazz, York created JAZZistry. As artistic director his roles include arranger, bandleader, educator and advocate for the Arts in education. York has taken the JAZZistry band to over 300 Michigan schools, sharing his musical approach for integrating multicultural Arts across the curriculum.

In 2001, with the help of dedicated volunteers Vincent York’s JAZZistry became a nonprofit organization that helps students better understand the music they hear and motivates them to study music. To date, Jazzistry has given presentations to more than 100,000 students including kindergarteners through college students. Over the years, the JAZZistry band has featured many celebrated jazz musicians from metro Detroit, including Marcus Belgrave, Dwight Adams, Alma Smith, Ron English, John Dana, John Douglas, Gary Schunk and Jesse Kramer.

The National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) presents annual awards at its annual conference. Founded in 1990 by Dr. Rose Duhon-Sells, NAME is the largest activist educator multicultural organization in the US. NAME brings together individuals from all academic levels and disciplines from diverse educational institutions. NAME’s annual awards recognize groundbreaking efforts that advance social justice and multicultural education. York received the award at NAME’s annual conference in Cleveland, Ohio, in November 10, 2016.

# # #

Press release, September 2011:

 Why Arts Education is Essential

by Vincent York

Founder and Artistic Director, Jazzistry

I have worked as an educator in the state of Michigan since 1997. In 1994, I founded Vincent York’s Jazzistry as a way to use live performance to teach the story of jazz and its role in American history and culture.  Like many educators, I am confused by the mixed messages that our state government seems to be sending out: how can we create new jobs and new industries, when at the same time we are cutting funding to education and the arts?

Many research studies point to the importance of the arts in developing creative thinking skills. Earlier this year a Michigan State University study by the University Outreach and Engagement Center for Community and Economic Development, ArtSmarts, found that art, music, dance, and crafts are useful, valuable, and essential components for the economic recovery of Michigan and the nation. The study shows that MSU Honors College graduates who majored in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) were far more likely to have extensive arts and craft skills than the average American. Those who were involved in printmaking, composing music, metal work and other crafts as a mature adult also tended to have more patents attached to their names.

I perform in elementary, middle, and high schools all around this state.  I have seen with my own eyes the immensely positive effect that the arts can have on our youth and the way that appreciation for and participation in the arts can open up healthy options for a young person’s future. 

This is changing in the wake of state budget cuts.  In July 2011 the Michigan unemployment rate hit 10.9 percent. In this severe job crisis it’s disheartening to think that the public dollars “saved” by cuts in funding for education and the arts may end up being spent later on room and board for these young people in our prison system.

In light of these budget cuts Jazzistry is very grateful for the grant we received this year from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.  It, along with funds from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, United Bank and Trust, Target, The Mardi Gras Fund, CS Partners, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses’ and other supporters, enabled us to reach 5,774 young people in schools around Michigan this year.  Each year, more and more kids need Jazzistry’s services as their schools cut arts programming, but each year it’s getting harder for us to raise the money to reach them.  I believe I speak for all of my colleagues in the art world when I say that we limit our children’s future when we deny them access to the arts.

Art is not a luxury or a frill.  In addition to the way art nurtures creativity and all-important STEM skills as described above, there are many other ways that art provides unique education opportunities.  For example, Jazzistry embeds the arts into Michigan’s required curriculum, in subjects such as history, English, and the social sciences.  A live Jazzistry performance tells the story of the history, artistry, and ethnic roots of jazz. We explain how music integrated races and cultures a long time before the civil rights movement.

Jazz is this country’s only indigenous art form, and its very existence testifies to the fact that the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of this country is a tremendous asset.  Jazz—and all art—is a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit.  Jazz, which was born between 1890 and 1920, thrived in adversity and raised the morale of our country during the Great Depression. Introducing today’s youth to this symbol of American freedom can help inspire them to overcome the challenges we face today.

Vincent York may be contacted at

#   #   #


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE      October 2, 2008

                                     AWARD RECIPIENTS

CONTACT:   Don Tanner/ Kristin Priest      (248) 626-0006                      

Vincent York’s Jazzistry of Ann Arbor to be Honored at the 23rd Annual Governor’s Awards for Arts & Culture Gala


SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – ArtServe Michigan, producers of Michigan’s longest running, largest statewide awards gala recognizing leaders in the arts, today announced Vincent York’s Jazzistry of Ann Arbor has been selected as  the Arts Education Organization Award recipient.  Jazzistry will be honored at the 23rd Annual Governor’s Awards for Arts & Culture (The Guvvys), November 13, 2008 at the Detroit Institute of Arts. This award is presented to a Michigan educational organization or institution that has provided remarkable support and advanced art education in Michigan schools.

In total, 22 artists, arts and cultural organizations, arts educators and civic and business leaders from across the state of Michigan will be named as Guvvy honorees for their dedication to arts and culture, within 10 different categories, including: Arts Advocate; Civic Leader; Non Profit Arts and Cultural Leader; Arts and Cultural Organization (over and under $1 million); Exemplary Business; Michigan Artist Lifetime Achievement; Michigan Innovative Artist; Arts Education Organization; and Arts Educator. Also being honored are the 2008 International Achievement Award recipients: director/producer/writer/lyricist Jack O’Brien and musician Bob James. 

“Michigan is home to a wealth of creative talents, and we are proud to honor these organizations and individuals,” said Jennifer Goulet, President of ArtServe Michigan. “All of our 2008 award recipients and honorees have helped to cultivate the creative potential of Michigan, its people and communities and express the vision of The Guvvys, rewarding exceptional artistic talent, creativity and innovation.”

Vincent York’s Jazzistry

Founder Vincent York created Jazzistry, a fusion of jazz, history and artistry, as a means of teaching children and adults a better understanding of jazz and its evolution. Jazzistry performances are designed to teach children and adults the history of jazz and the role it plays in American history. The nonprofit organization is run by York and two part-time employees, with the help of several volunteers, comprising a team committed to the art and history of jazz.

The Jazzistry team travels to schools in Southeast Michigan, educating and entertaining students with a blend of auditory and visual stimulation designed to encapsulate a crowd. Schools often request repeat performances and receive funding through grants York and his team award and help to find. To date, York has given presentations to more than 50,000 students in more than 150 schools.

“This is a captivating program which holds audiences of students, faculty and staff in elementary, middle school and high school spellbound,” said nominator Kenneth S. Burnley, University of Michigan School of Education. “Jazzistry contributes to advancing student and teacher learning through workshops and professional development programs while advocating and supporting the inclusion of arts in the curriculum.”

In its 23rd year, the Governor’s Awards evolved from the Concerned Citizens for the Arts in Michigan’s Governors’ Arts Awards. Concerned Citizens for the Arts in Michigan was a non-profit, statewide citizens cultural advocacy organization, which later merged with three other art organizations, Arts Foundation, Business Volunteers for the Arts and Michigan Alliance for Arts Education, to form ArtServe Michigan in 1997. In 2006, ArtServe Michigan merged with the Michigan Association of Community Arts Agencies to become the new ArtServe Michigan. More than 700 artists, legislators, business leaders, arts managers, board members and patrons from across the state attend the Guvvys each year.

The two-day celebration also includes the Student Event on November 14, 2008 where middle and high school students explore creative career options through a talk-back session with the International Award recipients and hands-on workshops.

About The Governor’s Awards for Arts & Culture

Established in 1985 by Concerned Citizens for the Arts of Michigan, The Governor’s Awards for Arts & Culture is the longest running Michigan event recognizing statewide and international leaders in the arts and is Michigan’s largest statewide celebration of arts, culture and creativity. Today, the Governor’s Awards is a two-day event celebrating and cultivating creativity in Michigan with an annual gala designed to honor distinguished achievement and meritorious work in arts and culture by individual artists, cultural and educational organizations, arts educators, businesses and individuals, and a Student Event designed to inspire young creative minds to explore creative career possibilities. This year’s gala will take place on Thursday, November 13, 2008 at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Mich.  For more information visit

About ArtServe Michigan

ArtServe Michigan is a statewide nonprofit organization that seeks to cultivate the creative potential of Michigan’s arts and cultural sector to enhance the public health and well-being of Michigan, its people and communities. Located at the Riley Broadcast Center in Wixom, ArtServe advocates for arts, culture and creativity throughout the state, encourages quality arts education in schools and communities and provides support services for artists, arts educators and arts and cultural organizations. For more information, visit or contact ArtServe Michigan at 248-912-0760.

# # #