Visitors take a journey through jazz history, from its humble beginnings in secular, folk traditions through its many contemporary incarnations.
In May of 2018 we acquired Birmingham’s only dedicated, jazz-exclusive radio station, WAJH 91.1FM.
A music education opens up new ways of thinking about the world. Through learning how to play jazz, our students cultivate the skills necessary to meet tomorrow’s challenges. A jazz education teaches students how to be creative, how to collaborate, how to listen, and how to engage with others, both within and across cultures. Our educational programs give underserved students the opportunities and resources they need to thrive.
In this annual, three-day event student jazz bands at the middle school, high school, and college and university levels perform before the public and their peers in an adjudicated program. Though awards for “Band of Distinction” and “Outstanding Soloist” are given in each of the festival categories, the festival promotes collaboration over competition: participants may opt-out of receiving numerical scores in favor of comments only.
In addition, the festival presents a nationally renowned artist in concert, who also serves as clinician and leads a workshop that is open to the public. Past clinicians have included Lenny Kravitz’s drummer, Zoro, and Rashawn Ross, the touring trumpeter for Dave Matthews Band. There is never a fee asked of participating bands, and due to the wealth of talent represented at the festival many college and university band directors use it to recruit future band members. In 2018, 21 jazz bands and 403 student musicians participated. The 2019 festival was
had 16 jazz bands which participated. The level of showmanship and artistry rises every year and this year's festival was no exception. Bands of Distinction were as follows; Troy University, Gadsden State Community college, Minor High School, and Piztiz Middle School. The AJHF wants to congratulate all participants and we are looking forward to next year. "This program has been made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts."
As part of our commitment to giving underserved students access to resources, we accept donated instruments through our Jazz Recycling Program. Individuals and organizations may donate used musical instruments, which we then “tune up” and put in the hands of our band students. All donations are fully tax deductible.
Every Saturday morning since 1999, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame has offered free jazz instruction to aspiring musicians. We nurture young talent, putting instruments in the hands of the curious. Taught by jazz professionals, the program is one-of-a-kind. No similar program exists in our area. Our students come from seven different counties in central Alabama and receive instruction at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels in music theory, jazz history, and jazz improvisation. Donated instruments are loaned to students in need, and past participants have gone on to receive prestigious academic scholarships or build successful careers in music. Some former students, appreciating what the program has afforded them, have even returned to donate their time and teach.
Every year, we present two master classes, each conducted by a professional jazz artist, at low or no-cost to participants. Students receive exclusive instruction from distinguished, professional musicians. Past artists have included: Esperanza Spalding and the Grammy nominated child prodigy pianist Joey Alexander.
This traveling program brings jazz fundamentals into the elementary classroom with free, one-hour lessons, tailored to augment each teacher’s curriculum.
Alabama has produced some of the most notable jazz musicians in the country such as Nat King Cole from Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa's Dinah Washington just to name a few. The first piano blues solo ever recorded was played by Birmingham-born Clarence “Pinetop” Smith. Sun Ra, whose innovative work remains celebrated worldwide, was born and raised in Birmingham, and native Erskine Hawkins set the standard with his signature tune about Ensley, “Tuxedo Junction.” The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame honors these luminaries and more with exhibits that showcase their accomplishments.
Visitors take a journey through jazz history, from its humble beginnings in secular, folk traditions through its many contemporary incarnations. Honoring the sacred rituals that gave birth to the genre and the visionaries who kept it alive, the museum attracts not only jazz enthusiasts, but civil rights historians, students, and tour groups. Guided tours are available by reservation and walk-in visitors may access the public archives upon request.
While the Carver is under construction, the museum collection is in storage. Forty years’ worth of archives and artifacts, including Ella Fitzgerald’s dress, instruments, memorabilia, and various personal effects, are being re-evaluated to prepare for new exhibits in the renovated venue. Volunteer interns from Jefferson State Community College’s Sigma Kappa Delta National English Honor Society have agreed to digitize, catalog, and update all archival records for the Jazz Hall’s 245 inductees.
The renovated museum will also share exhibit space with the Birmingham Black Radio Museum, now in development. Graduate students from the University of Alabama’s School of Library and Informational Studies (SLIS) are chronicling, cataloging and preserving information and materials related to the history of black radio in Birmingham.
The story of jazz music is a story of hope. It is a testament to the power of people to overcome adversity with grace. Envisioned as the musical complement to the nearby Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame museum shares the joyful stories of resilience, underscoring the civil rights movement.
In May of 2018 we acquired Birmingham’s only dedicated, jazz-exclusive radio station, WAJH 91.1FM. Playing jazz since the 1980s, the station reaches central Alabama on 91.1 and a worldwide audience online at jazzhall.com. As the Voice of Jazz in Alabama, Jazz Hall Radio plays both classic recordings and new releases, with a focus on Alabama artists. Enhancing our mission, the station plans to showcase the work of student musicians and share the stories of Alabama’s jazz visionaries.
In that great tradition unique to jazz culture, our monthly jazz jam sessions invite musicians to play together or “jam” in a group improvisation session. A cherished addition to downtown nightlife, the sessions attract a wide audience of locals and tourists, and sometimes a few celebrities.
Every third Sunday we invite local poets and writers to perform their original, literary works before an audience “on stage at the Carver.” Last October marked the 12-year anniversary of this event, making it is the longest-running spoken word, open mic night in Birmingham.
This one-day, outdoor jazz festival is held on the last Saturday of August in Birmingham’s historic Fourth Ave. District, known for being a bustling enclave for black businesses and culture during segregation. Launched in 2003 to celebrate the legacy of the neighborhood, the festival features local and international artists on a main stage, and a diverse selection of commercial booths and food vendors participate.
Fifteen years later, in collaboration with Urban Impact, Inc., the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, and the City of Birmingham, this one-day festival has turned into a beloved community event, presented every summer at no cost to attendees.
Artists who have participated include: Bobbi Humphrey, Kim Waters, Ben Tankard, Norman Brown, Euge Groove, Paul Taylor, Ronnie and Deborah Laws, Michael Ward, Joey Summerville, Gabbie McGee, Dee-Lucas, DieDra Young, the Birmingham Heritage Band, Foxxy Fatts & Company, Bo Berry, and the Neo Jazz Collective.
As one of the main venues for the annual Sidewalk Film Festival, the Carver Theatre has welcomed many emerging, independent filmmakers in its history.
We are dedicated to giving underserved populations opportunities to see their stories on the big screen, and in March of 2017 we negotiated with Magnolia Pictures to screen the first run film I am Not Your Negro, about the unfinished work of James Baldwin. In a first- of-its-kind screening for the area, we ran the film for a month, and by the end of the run screenings were near sold-out.
We have also produced multicultural film festivals, including a tribute to the works of Harry Belafonte, who participated in a discussion with the audience after the screening of his 2011 documentary Sing Your Song.
Every three to five years, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame welcomes new inductees in a grand ceremony. Inductees are nominated by the community and selected by a special committee. In December 2015 eight artists were inducted, including Birmingham native Marion Evans, who won a Grammy Award for his arrangement of the album Cheek to Cheek featuring Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.
This event gives up and coming local comedians the opportunity to hone their craft on stage for a live audience. Comedians receive instruction in professional comedy techniques, and promising participants are invited to perform as part of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame’s regular comedy series.
Over forty years, we have cultivated many rewarding relationships with neighboring institutions. We have worked with the following organizations:
In 2016 a Jazz Hall Inductee hosted a pre-show performance for the full run of BCT’s original stage production about jazz history in Birmingham, “Tuxedo Junction.” Children explored jazz instruments in a musical “petting zoo” and were introduced to the Jazz Hall’s educational programs. 7, 233 students participated.
In partnership with Samford University, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame participated in a cultural passport program. Students with passports gained free access to participating arts institutions and received a stamp upon visiting. The program served to enhance learning outside the classroom.
This after school program connects 200 inner city youth and their families to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and its community partners. As a partner, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame hosted students for four weeks, during which students learned about the history of jazz and its culture. At the end of the program, students participated in a recreation of a jazz juke joint and performed jazz standards and Savoy style dance moves for an audience.
This multidisciplinary project introduced students to Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. Jazz musicians, incorporating spoken word and video footage, brought Langston Hughes’ epic poem, “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz,” to life. Schools were given study guides and each presentation included a pre and post show discussion.
As part of the Alabama Dance Council’s Festival of Dance, we sponsored two student workshops with American choreographer Kyle Abraham (abrahaminmotion.org). Held at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, the workshops explored storytelling though modern dance and were led by Abraham and his company. Abraham also performed his original, award-winning dance The Radio Show.