"This is definitely not the kind of riff you want to hear," says Calvin Jones.
What he's talking about is the reduction-in-force at the University of the District of Columbia that has wiped out both Jones' Jazz Studies Program (two faculty members) and Pearl Williams Jones' Gospel Studies Program.
"This is predominantly a black institution," says Calvin Jones, a well-known performer, composer, arranger and educator, "and I don't see how you can turn your back on your own culture. Jazz is one of the greatest art forms this country has produced, one that's recognized all over the world. All around the country, the big white universities are all really moving up with jazz programs and with jazz artists in residence. That this should occur in the city university of the nation's capital, and at a time when Washington, D.C., has been chosen as the site of the Thelonious Sphere Monk Center for Jazz Studies, is inexcusable."
Jones has been in the music department for 11 years, bringing the jazz studies program up to degree status in the last four years, but union rules dictate that reductions be made along seniority lines. Goodbye jazz and gospel faculty. The UDC Jazz Ensemble has earned accolades not only for its performances but for its involvement in the community. "We have done a lot of work for the university, and everyone knows it needs some positive images," says Jones. "It's been a struggle to make it a successful program and attract good students. Just to let it all go, I don't understand that. It's ridiculous."
There will be a demonstration protesting the elimination of these programs at noon on Friday at the District Building.
The Color of Music
At the New Music Seminar in New York last week, there was some confusion when L.R. Byrd, identified as a consultant for the NAACP's economic development division, told convention-goers during a panel on racism that the NAACP, which in March released a report blasting the music industry for systematic racial discrimination at all levels, was ready to move against record labels that did not make a commitment to ending such discrimination. Byrd said three record companies, and one artist in particular, had been targeted. Among Byrd's solutions: labels hiring more black executives and support staff, doing more business with black consulting firms and buying more products from black-owned companies. Pointing to the need for more blacks in management positions, despite a number of promotions within the industry since the NAACP's report, Byrd suggested companies hire the same percentage of black managers as the percentage of black artists on their rosters.
Soon after, though, the NAACP said Byrd had not represented its views and was, in fact, no longer a consultant. A spokesman said the NAACP was satisfied with the progress being made since the March report, titled "The Discordant Sound of Music." It could have been a model for a similar report on professional baseball, pointing to "a pattern of racial exclusion that makes the industry, at every level, virtually the sole preserve of white males."
The 30,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics has joined forces with the Parents Music Resource Center and the National Congress of Parents and Teachers in their "efforts to make parents aware of sexually and otherwise explicit songs we feel have a detrimental effect on society." Dr. Richard Narkewicz of Burlington, Vt., president-elect of the AAP's board of directors, got the board's unanimous approval for his recommendation that the group "actively support" the PMRC and the national PTA. Narkewicz says the AAP, whose role is primarily educational, would like to make PMRC pamphlets, brochures and videos, which list "explicit" rock materials and counsel parents and kids on how to deal with them, available at pediatricians' offices. He also likened the AAP's support of the PMRC to its work with groups such as Action for Children's Television, which advocates less commercial exploitation on children's TV.
Meanwhile, Richard Branson's Virgin label now has a company-mate -- Mates condoms -- with the motto: "If it's not on, it's not on." Speaking at the New Music Seminar, Branson said pop artists have a special responsibility to use their influence on young people to help fight the spread of AIDS and educate them about sex.
He may not be all that popular with his teammates these days, but New York Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry thinks he can get a hit away from the baseball diamond: He's recording a rap tune called "Chocolate Strawberry" with UTFO and Whistle. He's also taking the rap from the IRM Crew on its new song, "Baseball." According to Billboard, the song concludes: "Gotta lighten up, Straw, brighten up, Straw/ All that shuckin' and jivin' won't do/ Stop coppin' pleas and all of those zzz's/ Keep earnin' that one million, two."
Maybe Strawberry can battle it out on the charts with Joe Johnson's "Bradford." That's right, Joe Johnson, not Jackson -- he's the former world snooker champion, and the song is part of his English home town's promotional campaign, "Bradford's Bouncing Back."