UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 15 Winter 21 Library

WTJU's Jazz at 100 receives a $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts Grant

From 2017 to 2019 WTJU jazz expert Rus Perry took on a rather formidable task. While receiving important technical support from his station colleagues, he was the unstoppable one-man force behind Jazz at 100, a series of 100 hour-long episodes that covered the history and celebrated the centennial of America’s homegrown cultural treasure. 

Now, powered by a $20,00 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, this wealth of information and entertainment will move from the airwaves into classrooms in the form of a modular multimedia curriculum available to high school and early college students. 

WTJU General Manager Nathan Moore said the grant is proof of how far the station has come in the last decade. “Ten years ago, the idea that we would get an NEA grant to develop an online curriculum…you might as well have said that we were going to launch a mission to the moon.” 

This particular show, Moore said, offered the perfect vehicle to make it to that most unlikely launching pad. “From the jump, I thought Rus’s show was one that we could an awesome educational program. What Rus set out to do with Jazz at 100 was to create the best-ever companion albums for the history of jazz. There are a lot of great jazz history books out there, including a great one by UVA’s own Scott DeVeaux, along with Gary Giddins. Many of those come with companion CDs, but it is just inevitable that you are going to have to make some very big exclusions. Norton is not exactly eager to put out a 100-CD companion set for such a book, but I can name a radio show that has a hundred episodes.” 

The course, which is currently in the planning stages with Perry as its content advisor, is a perfect example of WTJU’s evolution, Moore said. In the process of a recent move, he came across a Daily Progress story about his hiring ten years ago. In it, he said he wanted to make the station a cultural hub, combining strong and eclectic music programming with finding new ways of community building that happens to use radio as its vehicle. “I feel like, ten years on, that is exactly what we have done,” he said. “We do concerts, we have a second radio station, we have a podcast collective, we have summer camps and lots of educational programming. So to me, this is an awesome capstone of these efforts and an example of what community radio can be when you put a capital “C” on community.” 

The course will be available free online, Moore said, and with final decisions on its platform soon to come, it is already setting itself apart. “There have obviously been a lot of other online jazz history courses, but I have yet to find others that are free, and also modular,” he said. “So now if somebody wants to do an entire semester, this could be an Intro to the History of Jazz course. But at the same time, if there is an 11th-grade history teacher out there somewhere who wants to assign a particular module about jazz and the civil rights movement, we’ve got that too.” 

In addition to remaining consistent with the station’s mission and with Moore’s vision for his future, he said that this course also speaks to the station’s important work of continuing to meet the needs of the community it is here to serve. “What WTJU provides is the sense of belonging and connection with other people, and also a place where we can experience the beauty and even perhaps the transcendent, at times, with music. Presenting exceptional music and promoting the context for how this music happens and where it comes from, to me, is right in line with both our mission and helping to meet people’s needs for beauty and for connection.”

Start Listening Now!

In early 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band made the first jazz recording. Over the next 100 years we have heard transcendent leaps of creativity and staggering virtuosity; we have experienced the music of crushing pain, breathless romance, anger, exhilaration and humor. Jazz at 100 is that story – one hundred years of jazz recordings – in 100 one-hour programs that will present representative music from a century of recorded jazz history. The series will explore the broad sweep of that narrative; its representative and its idiosyncratic players; its durable movements and dead ends; its popular recordings and rarities.
Read the next story

The Culbreth Road Parking Garage Never Sounded So Good