Dr. Leah Tucker
Among Tucker’s accomplishments: growing the annual Student Jazz Band Festival from one day to three days to attract middle school, high school and collegiate attendees from across the southeast to play before noted professional adjudicators. A “recycling program” getting donated instruments in the hands of students in need. Presentations by multicultural artists of performances and workshops for high school students, Managing the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame museum, and the historic Carver Theatre -- once the only place African-American audiences in the region could attend the movies -- in the Carver Performing Arts Center, now undergoing a $4.3 million redevelopment.
As the Carver renovations have hampered AJHF activities in its home, Tucker has partnered with neighboring non-profits to keep things going. The Saturday Jazz Greats series of tuition-free jazz lessons for young people, run weekly since 1999, continues at a new venue, and the monthly AJHF jam sessions are now hosted at a local lounge.
Tucker’s good works have not been limited to the AJHF. After college and graduate studies, she served on the board of directors for the Selma and Dallas County Arts Council, helping to develop a fledgling arts community in the poorest counties of the state, and organizing the Selma Bridge Festival to showcase regional talent. She’s been on the strategic planning team for the Alabama School of Fine Arts, designing its curriculum and mission statement. In 2018 she was appointed to the Alabama Course of Study for Arts Education, working to build a state-wide curriculum for the public schools, and in 2019 she was elected president of the board of directors for the new nonprofit the Taste of 4th Ave., Inc., to expand on the existing of Fourth Ave. Jazz Festival, launched by the AJHF in 2003. In 2020, Tucker was named a "Jazz Hero" by the Jazz Journalists Association.
Leah Tucker has done so much since growing up in Los Angeles, first hearing jazz on her father’s vinyl albums, listening to his stories of visiting the Cotton Club, sneaking out with her older brother to see Cannonball Adderley and Ramsey Lewis at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. Today she’s enabling some other young person to make just the sort of discoveries she did, and as a Jazz Hero inspiring them to follow through, undoubtedly to the benefit of Birmingham and beyond.