The National Endowment for the Arts Recognizes Highland Jazz

jazz logo  A non-profit organization has to be viable for two years before it can apply for grant money. At the end of the 1985 summer I had a long conversation with Cathy Lee, the director of Studio Red Top. She had a lot of experience navigating the maze of funding organizations and strongly suggested that I apply for a grant. The most prestigious arts funding organization is the National Endowment for the Arts. It also has a very complex application form. The documentation that must accompany the application is extensive- financial projections, written agreements from venues, background information about the musicians, identification of board members, expertise of the administration, examples of past programming, marketing materials etc., etc., etc. The funding is for programs that will take place one or two years in the future; therefore the applicant has to include commitments from musicians about a gig that may never take place if the funding doesn’t materialize. Since I had never applied for a grant before I spent hours trying to develop a strategy and a rationale that might be successful. I wanted to develop a concert series that would focus the spotlight on Boston-area players and give them the recognition they so strongly deserved.

The grant letter came in late May. Highland jazz received a total of $10,000 for the 1986-87 series- $6,000 “to support concerts for local and emerging jazz musicians” and $4,000 to “support the salary of the music director.” What a shock: I would actually be paid for my work!

Here’s how the local newspapers announced the grant- “Newton’s Highlands Jazz gets a boost from grant;”  “Real recognition for Highlands Jazz;”  “Move over Newport- Newton jazz supporters celebrate grant.”

grant celebration

Grant celebration      photograph by Art Illman                                  left to right Mario Boccabella, women (?) Mayor Mann and Alex Elin

To celebrate we held a reception on June 26 at the Congregational Church of Newton Highlands. Teddy Mann, Newton’s major, joined in the fun by sitting down at the piano. “And the major proved, perhaps for the first time in public that he can sing.”

Most of the newspaper articles emphasized Mario’s contribution, calling him the father of Highland Jazz, a jazz entrepreneur, who had predicted at the beginning that Highland Jazz would be successful in three years. Now the grant had proved he was right.  I was described as the person in charge of hiring the musicians. No one acknowledged that I was responsible for writing the grant application that would keep the series going. A number of my friends were upset that Mario was at center stage, garnering all the publicity. How did I feel? I was so happy that Highland Jazz had received such an honor that I pushed my personal feelings aside.

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