The original Beethoven Foundation in New York became the American Pianists Association 25 years ago before moving to Indianapolis. The original goal was to prepare American classical pianists for international piano competition. Shortly after the organization moved to Indianapolis in 1988, the great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson was booked to play a concert at Clowes Memorial Hall as a fund-raiser for the APA. He stated from the stage he would donate his fee if the APA would create a jazz piano competition.
The APA's jazz piano competition was eventually developed and the inaugural APA competition was held in 1992. Jan Ross was APA's director at the time. Helen Small became the APA's president/CEO in 1997. We asked Small if the APA's focus has changed with the inclusion of jazz.
"The focus hasn't changed of what we provide. We changed the emphasis of what we do." The APA is doing a lot more today with the acquisition of the Indy Jazz Fest. Jazz has played a major role in the APA according to Small.
"We started A Taste of Jazz in the Park at Military Park because of a support group called the Friends of the American Piano Association in 1994. The thought was jazz would attract more people to an outdoor event than classical music. The Friends group saw this as a way to raise more money for both the classical and jazz programs."
We asked Small if taking over the Indy Jazz Fest has altered the APA's long-range goals. Small was upbeat about the acquisition. "There have been no goal changes in taking over the Indy Jazz Fest. There have been no changes in the APA focus but the move has brought into balance both lines of the APA - both the classical and jazz."
Looking to the APA's future, Small has hopes to level the playing field for both genres of their music. "In the future we want there to be more parity between classical and jazz. I think I would like to have two fellowships in both musical forms. That's going to require a significant amount of money to begin that second jazz fellowship. I would like to see the Indy Jazz Fest collaborate with other significant jazz festivals around the world in presenting our jazz fellow at those festivals and reciprocate in kind."
The APA's Artistic Director Joel Harrison assumed his position in 2000. Harrison has brought a significant amount of expertise with him. We asked him what he felt was the most important contribution he has given the APA.
"I believe I have been instrumental in bringing greater visibility to the work of the APA at the national and international level. I have been able to find ways to sponsor our classical and jazz fellows at the national and international forums and venues."
Harrison's role is critical to the APA by setting up the competition and getting the word out to the country's music schools to nominate the top performers they feel would have the potential to be great fellows. He also picks the competition judges.
"I am solely responsible for choosing the judges for the jazz and the classical. If you get great people on the jury with really good, discerning ears you are going to get really great fellows."
Harrison stressed that to be a candidate in the competition one does not have to come from a fine school of music. His long-range goals for the APA reflect those of CEO/President Small.
"I hope in the not too distant future we are able to financially have two jazz fellowships. In so doing I hope that we will be able to bring the jazz program to parity with the classical."
Adam Birnbaum claimed the Cole Porter Jazz Fellowship award this year. When asked how becoming an APA fellow has made a difference in his career, the 25-year-old New Yorker said, "Earning the fellowship will allow will me to be the first jazz pianist to play as a solo pianist at the prestigious Gilmore Recital series in Kalamazoo in December, which is normally for only classical players. As for longtime goals, getting my name out there over time is definitely going to have a positive effect."
Birnbaum will team up with APA Classical Fellows Thomas Rosenkrantz and Michael Sheppard Friday, Nov. 12 for the APA's free 25th Anniversary Concert at noon in the Hilbert Circle Theatre. Later that evening, Birnbaum will performs with Indy's top jazz rhythm section of Frank Smith, bass, and Kenny Phelps, drums, at the Jazz Kitchen for shows at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.
Chatterbox, 435 Massachusetts Ave. Friday, Brazilian jazz with Ipanema. Saturday, soulful jazz and R&B vocals by Cynthia Layne & Friends. Music 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Cover charge $4.
Jazz On the Avenue, 617 Indiana Ave., Madame Walker Theatre Center, fourth floor ballroom. Mary Moss & Friends, 6 to 10 p.m. Cover charge and optional soul food buffet.
Jazz Kitchen, 54th Street and College Avenue. Friday, APA Cole Porter Fellow Adam Birnbaum Trio. Saturday, Los Hombres Calientes. Shows 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. $8 cover charge.
New Fountain Lounge, 816 W. 30th St. Wednesday, Jazzsetters featuring Sansing & Stevi, 8 to 10 p.m. Free admission.
Sullivan's Steakhouse, 3316 E. 86th St., Keystone at the Crossing. Friday, Steve Corn, piano, Joe Deal, bass. Saturday, Claude Sifferlen, piano, Joe Deal, bass, 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday, Alki Scopelitis, piano, Fred Withrow, bass, 5 to 9 p.m.
Pauly's Italian Restaurant, Southport Road and Highway 37. Saxophonist Sophie Faught & Maiden Voyage Wednesday, 6:30 to 9 p.m. and Friday, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Smokehouse Cafe, County Line Road and Meridian Street. Sunday Jazz Brunch, The Impulse Trio goes 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, dining and dancing with jazz saxophonist Tommy Wills Twosome, 7 to 10 p.m.
Chuck Workman is the producer/host of the Sunday Morning Jazz Show at 107.9 WTPI.