Victoria Voketaitis the Director of Special Projects for Jazz Foundation of America. Previous positions include Administrator, Concert and Artist Activities at Steinway & Sons and Booking Agent at Columbia Artists Management. Vicky received a Bachelor of Music from The Hartt School in West Hartford, CT.
The Jazz Foundation of America is presenting their 22nd Annual JAZZ LOFT PARTY - Saturday, October 19 from 7pm-midnight in Manhattan. Featured performers include Bettye LaVette, Kenny Barron, Shuggie Otis and Ron Carter. Ticket information: http://jazzfoundation.org/loft2013
I was introduced to jazz in a bit of a backward way. In 1984, I went into a record store on Long Island and asked if there were any other albums recorded by the guy from that cool “Rock It” video airing on MTV. Less than 10 years later in college, I am listening to Jackie McLean talk about the tune he just recorded with Dizzy Gillespie during his “History of Jazz” class at The Hartt School. Shortly after, a job at Steinway & Sons allowed me the opportunity to tell Herbie Hancock about how his video of dancing headless mannequins introduced me to everyone from Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald to two recently departed favorites, Cedar Walton and Mulgrew Miller. I’ve spent years listening to and working with jazz musicians, and now I work for the only national organization dedicated to helping elder jazz and blues musicians in crisis.
While many jazz artists achieved great success, others spent the better part of their careers living from paycheck to paycheck, praying the phone will ring with that next gig. Many jazz musicians do not have pensions, and very few have medical plans or other resources.
Since 1989, The Jazz Foundation of America (JFA) has committed to providing jazz and blues musicians with financial, medical, housing, and legal assistance as well as performance opportunities, with a special focus on the elderly and veterans who find themselves in crisis due to illness, age and/or circumstance. In 1993, Dizzy Gillespie, dying of cancer at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey, said to his oncologist, Dr. Frank Forte, "Can you find a way to get the medical care I'm getting for musicians who can't afford it?" Since then, jazz musicians have received pro bono care of all kinds at Englewood Hospital, thanks to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund.
In 2000, our current Executive Director Wendy Oxenhorn joined JFA and took the organization from assisting 35 musicians a year to over 150 in a matter of months. We now assist in over 5,000 cases a year, including hundreds of musicians and their families affected by Hurricane Sandy in the New York region as well as those still recovering from Katrina in New Orleans. In 2005, pharmaceutical industry pioneer and celebrated philanthropist "Saint" Agnes Varis made an unprecedented $1 million grant to expand our relief to musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina. With our Agnes Varis Jazz in the Schools program and additional paid gigs, we created over 3000 performance opportunities a year.
PEOPLE WE HELP
In recent years, we have been working closely with the beloved trumpeter, composer, bandleader and educator we all know and admire, Clark Terry. He is struggling with serious health challenges of late, including the amputation of both his legs and surgery to remove his stomach. He requires 24-hour healthcare.
Clark’s amazing wife Gwen has kept him from a nursing home by devoting her life to his care. JFA is helping by defraying his medical expenses, including his oxygen and providing home health aides. Clark’s insurance does not cover the cost of health aides, which can be upwards of $1,100 per week.
Gwen shares her thoughts on JFA: "Clark's spirit is strong and his mind is sharp. He wants to continue sharing his knowledge with his students, and contributing to the perpetuation of jazz. God always makes a way out of no way, and we are grateful for all blessings…We thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity, assistance and compassion. We are very appreciative for everyone who has contributed to support Clark and to the Jazz Foundation of America…God bless you all!"
Singer Jimmy Norman’s claim to fame was co-writing “Time is On My Side”, which made The Rolling Stones famous in America, but he never earned a dime. Homebound recovering from heart failure, he was unable to tour and earn money, and was close to being evicted. The Jazz Foundation introduced him to a doctor who extended his life nearly ten years. While helping Jimmy clean his apartment, JFA found a cassette tape of him and Bob Marley playing music in his living room in the 1970’s. This tape was auctioned off at Christie’s for $20,000, affording Jimmy the ability to pay his rent for a year and also to record songs he wrote, but never had the opportunity to release. Judy Collins signed him to her label and released his album Little Pieces, which won Best Blues Album at the Independent Music Awards.
(Jimmy Norman singing at Jazz Loft Party in 2011, just days before his death, performing for the people that helped him. Sitting in with him is Lou Reed.)
A very active Jazz Foundation Board, which includes musicians and extremely generous donors from the finance, law and accounting industries, continues to expand its outreach around the United States. Please help us reach our Jazz Loft Party fundraising goal of $350,000. Please help us help the musicians who played with everyone from Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday to Jimi Hendrix and Frank Sinatra.
The Jazz Foundation proposition is a simple one. These musicians wrote, recorded, played and sang the soundtrack of our lives.
For more information on who we are and the people we help, please visit www.jazzfoundation.org.