by Stephanie Stewart-Howard
The Nashville Jazz Workshop dates back nearly two decades, to 1998, when Lori Mechem and Roger Spencer introduced the Nashville Jazz Institute, aiming to teach students based on a traditional journeyman-apprentice approach. A few years later, they incorporated as a nonprofit and moved to their Germantown location where students remain the priority and where incredible music is made. This year, their wildly fun fundraiser Jazzmania, held at the Factory at Franklin, once again promises to let patrons dive deeply into amazing performances in the course of the best jazz party thrown in the city annually.
Sure, Nashville may be known for country music, but the Nashville Jazz Workshop underlines the city’s genuine, marvelous musical diversity. The opportunity for our residents, kids and adults alike, to grow their skills in the Jazz Workshop’s environment can’t be overstated, and it must be supported. This is how our culture continues to thrive and grow rich.
Founder Lori Mechem says, “Jazz has been around here longer than you think. Most of the A-list session players 20 to 30 years ago were amazing jazz musicians. They just didn’t get to play that genre very often. There were many live venues that presented jazz; musicians went after their sessions, but sadly these clubs didn’t last long.
“The Nashville Jazz Workshop has been at the forefront of the jazz scene for over 16 years, providing a community center for jazz. We provide not only classes for all levels, but live performances in our own facility, The Jazz Cave. We also take jazz out to the community by providing concerts—free or at a minimal fee.
“Community partners such as the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville Public Library, Parnassus Books, Discover Nashville, TPAC, Music for Seniors, and Music Makes Us help give back—and with Jazzmania, we can too.”
The evening includes catering by Sargent’s Fine Catering, an original cocktail by Lipman Brothers, and a guest performance by extraordinary Grammy-nominated and Dove Award-winning artist Donna McElroy, formerly of Nashville, now professor of voice at the Berklee College of Music.
Jazzmania also raises funds through a silent and online auction, offering Florida vacations, private concert events, and a host of more remarkable options for bidding.
If you’ve been there in the past, you know Jazzmania is the kind of event where you just enjoy yourself, carried away on incredible music. Not all fundraisers can say that, and that makes the tickets worth the price—and special.
Most important, attending this event and bidding in the auction means you help support incredibly talented people with a mission to bring more music to you. The whole community benefits, from the students in NJW’s workshops to the folks who take advantage of those concerts, listen to the recordings, and take joy in the power of jazz.
Who knows? Lori Mechem might yet get her ultimate wish—seeing more jazz clubs return to Music City. Jazzmania reminds us just how cool that could be.