Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mr. Roach, I Thank You

This past week the internet and the entire world Jazz community has been buzzing with news of the passing of one of the greatest, most genuinely unique and powerful icons in the history of this music, Max Roach. It seems that everyone who ever met him is sharing their story on blogs and mail-lists, however brief that meeting may have been. I have one of those stories as well, and have yet to write a word about it until now. In the late 1970's Max was instrumental in helping me get an award from the National Endowment for the Arts to fund a program (Jazz In The Classroom) that brought major Jazz artists into classrooms in South Central Los Angeles, aka Watts. His involvement gave tremendous credibility to the program, and many other historical figures followed. Billy Higgins, Abbey Lincoln, Randy Weston, Don Cherry, Benny Powell, Vinny Golia, Herbie Lewis, George Cables...the list is much longer. The program became a success, and lasted a full 10 years. It followed me to Northern California (Oakland) when I moved to the area to work at KJAZ. I was then, and remain, deeply committed to Mr. Roach for his assistance 30 years ago. So many children participated, and I think now about how so many of those children were touched so deeply as they learned about such a rich and integral part of their cultural history. I can't help but wonder how many of those children became musicians, or artists, or doctors, or whatever else they may have successfully dedicated themselves to becoming with the same dedication they heard about and saw in Max and the many other master musicians who followed. Some of those children may be on recordings we listen to today. Some of them may be surgeons who are delivering other lives into this world. What I remember is that Max told them to be dedicated to what they feel in their hearts and souls, stay focused on that, and they too could be successful. I have photographs, and recordings, of those artists visiting those children. I look into the eyes of those children, and today feel deeply and incredibly touched by what I see. And to Mr. Roach, I thank you.

1 comment:

jd said...

Ron,

Gee I used to listen to you when you were broadcasting from KCRW and KPFK way back in the day.

Thanks for blogging and I'll make it a point to catch your show over the net.