Fairfax BAR, Jazz 4 Justice a case of win-win Attorney helps to raise awareness, attendance for university's jazz program

By Holly Hobbs
Fairfax County Times
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ten years ago, when lawyer Ed Weiner took his family to a George Mason University jazz concert, he watched as musicians played to an empty venue.

"We were totally overwhelmed by the level of performance and totally underwhelmed by the number of audience members," he said.

The concert was during the inaugural year of the university's jazz program, director Jim Carroll said. The jazz ensemble was low on fans but not on spirit.

"I was just getting that jazz program going here, and we were sounding good," he said.

Looking to expand the program's attendance and do some good locally through fundraising, Weiner created Jazz 4 Justice.

Now in its ninth year, the annual jazz concert raises money for the school's jazz program and the Fairfax Law Foundation, a charitable organization established by the Fairfax Bar Association to support public access to justice and promote legal education.

Carroll said Weiner has "singlehandedly raised attendance" at the annual concerts by making area residents, particularly those in the legal field, aware of Mason's jazz program.

"There's really significant good that comes out of this concert," Carroll said. "It's not just about filling seats at a concert."

The money, Weiner said, is split down the middle -- with half going to the college in the form of scholarships for jazz students and half going to support foundation programs such as "Wills on Wheels," which connects senior citizens at retirement centers with area lawyers who help them write last wills and testaments.

Other programs supported by the foundation include alcohol and drug education programs, courthouse tours for junior high school students, counseling for at-risk youth and victims of domestic violence, and pro bono legal advice.

Weiner said that one year, when Mason's music department was burglarized, musical instruments, including a drum set, were stolen. Funds raised from the concert helped replace the missing items.

This year's concert will be Oct. 29. Jazz 4 Justice has become the Fairfax Law Foundation's second-largest fundraiser, bringing in more than $20,000 a year.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company