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Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz
Hometown: Washington, DC
Web site:
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The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, a nonprofit education organization, was founded in 1986 by the Monk family along with the late Maria Fisher, an opera singer and lifelong devotee of music. Its mission is to offer the world's most promising young musicians college level training by America's jazz masters and to present public school-based jazz education programs for young people around the world. All of these programs are offered free of charge to the students and schools.

The Institute's programs fill a tremendous void in arts education caused by public school budget cuts. They strive to help children develop imaginative thinking, creativity, a positive self-image, and respect for their own and others' cultural heritage.

Commitment to New Orleans Initiative: The Institute has made a major commitment to the City of New Orleans by embarking on a multi-year initiative to help revitalize the city through jazz. In August 2007, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance college program officially relocated to the campus of Loyola University New Orleans. The Institute has also pledged to implement sustainable public school and community jazz education programs to help strengthen the school system, provide employment for New Orleans musicians, attract New Orleans musicians now living in other cities back to their hometown, and unite the city's jazz and cultural communities. The Institute's efforts will have a major impact on the preservation, perpetuation, and expansion of jazz, not only in New Orleans but also across the nation.

Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance: This very specialized two-year college level program enables a select group of the world's most gifted young musicians to study tuition free (room, board and stipends are provided, as well) with major jazz musicians and educators, including Herbie Hancock, Clark Terry, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath, and Danilo Perez. This performance-based program is located at Loyola University New Orleans in association with the New Orleans Consortium, which includes Tulane University, the University of New Orleans, and three Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Dillard, Southern, and Xavier. The program is expected to become a model college jazz education program for the world. Internationally acclaimed trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard serves as Artistic Director.

Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition: This is the most prestigious jazz competition in the world and is often compared to the classical Van Cliburn competition. It has launched the careers of a number of major young jazz stars including Marcus Roberts, Joshua Redman, Jacky Terrasson, Joey DeFrancesco, and Jane Monheit.

National Jazz Curriculum: In February 2000, the Institute launched Jazz in America: The National Jazz Curriculum, an Internet-based jazz curriculum for 5th, 8th, and 11th grade public school American history and social studies classes. Found on the Web at, the curriculum presents an historical overview, examines characteristics of various jazz styles, highlights contributions of important performers and composers, and explores the social, economic, and political contexts within which jazz evolved. The program has the potential to reach as many as 12 million students each year.

The Blues and Jazz - Two American Classics: The Institute's most recent free online curriculum, available free of charge at, traces the blues and its vital importance to American history and culture. The four lesson plans for American history and social studies students explain the connections between the blues and jazz from the blues' inception to today. Thousands of Mississippi public school students have participated in assembly programs and master classes led by renowned blues and jazz musicians. This touring component will expand in Memphis as well as additional cities throughout Mississippi.

Jazz in the Classroom: Since 1989, the Institute has introduced the cultural richness of jazz to millions of public school students around the world through an array of educational programs. Master classes, workshops and concerts are presented by leading jazz musicians and educators to help children foster a sense of creativity and self-esteem and to provide children with role models. Jazz Sports and International Programs are two of the Institute's most recognized and important Jazz in the Classroom initiatives.

Jazz Sports: The Institute coordinates and presents the highly acclaimed Jazz Sports program in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. It brings together basketball and jazz in 20 public schools in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Institute instructors work on a daily basis with more than 200 students and as a result of this training, the students' grades have improved from an average D+/C- to a solid B average. More than 90% are graduating from high school and going on to college. The student ensembles perform their jazz repertoire for tens of thousands of people at Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Washington Wizards games, as well as at high-profile community events. Additionally, more than 1,000 public school students attend monthly master classes conducted by world renowned jazz musicians. The Jazz Sports program is chaired by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

International Programs: The Institute has presented jazz programs in Argentina, Chile, Egypt, India, Japan, Peru, Thailand and Vietnam; seven African nations; eight Caribbean islands; and more than 10 European countries. Many of these tours have been sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

BeBop to Hip-Hop: Begun in 2004 at Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles, BeBop to Hip-Hop is an innovative public school music education initiative. The program brings together jazz and hip-hop students under the direction of professional jazz musicians and hip-hop artists, including Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, and DJ Spark. Each weekday, aspiring young musicians study improvisation, lyric writing, music theory, arranging, composition, turntable scratching, and sampling. They are introduced to the latest recording technologies and are encouraged to create a new art form that demonstrates the genius of both musical genres.

Television Specials: The Institute has produced a number of television specials. In October 1986, the Institute produced "Celebrating a Jazz Master: Thelonious Sphere Monk," a PBS special tribute concert hosted by Bill Cosby. In June 1993, the Institute produced "A White House Jazz Festival," the first "In Performance at the White House" PBS special to be taped with President and Mrs. Clinton. In 1996, the Institute produced "A Celebration of America's Music," the first network television special devoted to jazz in over 25 years, which aired December 28 on ABC. And in 1997, the Institute produced the second "A Celebration of America's Music," which aired January 3, 1998 on ABC. Most recently in September 2006, the Institute presented an All-Star performance at The White House, which was taped as an "In Performance at The White House" PBS special and broadcast in 2007.

Every year since 1999, BET has produced a documentary about the Institute's annual International Jazz Competition. Each documentary features performances by the finalists, interviews with the judges, and all-star performances by some of the world's most renowned jazz musicians on the scene today.

Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz
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