‘Jazzspace’ searches for brightest jazz stars

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Much like “American Idol,” “The Voice” and now “The X Factor” who are out to find America’s next great pop singer, Jazzspace is on a mission to find Pittsburgh’s next generation of emerging Jazz greats.

“Jazzspace is about helping artists. We want to become a place where people can find out about new and emerging jazz artists in Pittsburgh and point musicians to opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise know about,” said Jazzspace Creator, Director and fellow jazz singer, Maggie Johnson. “I want Jazzspace to be a place of networking for Jazz artists because half the battle is showing them where the gigs are.”

MaggieJohnson
MAGGIE JOHNSON

In addition, the artists will receive $400 each to help with jazz-related projects and will be promoted throughout the year through the Jazzspace website.

“We’re looking for musical talent—the artists had to upload a recording of their music as part of the audition—we’re also looking for people who have a sense of purpose and who can show how their music will make the world a better place. We want someone who is serious about their music and sharing it with the world,” Johnson said. The deadline for applications was Sept. 12. Johnson plans on selecting the four artists sometime in October.

The Jazzspace initiative became a twinkle in Johnson’s eye in 2008.

“I woke up one night and started doing a strategic plan,” she said. “It became an official organization in 2011 through Fractured Atlas who sponsors artistic projects like Jazzspace.”

In 2009 Carnegie Mellon University students did a feasibility study on Jazzspace.

“The study told us that the community would support and participate in Jazzspace,” Johnson said. “Everyone wants to support independent artists, but it’s hard to organize that.”

This year, Johnson is able to provide a one-year residency and financial help to four up-and-coming Jazz artists. To help with the daunting task of choosing the artists, Johnson has enlisted the help of several Pittsburgh Jazz heavyweights: singer Etta Cox, saxophonist Tony Campbell and Pittsburgh Symphony Bassist Jeff Grubbs.

“They are all friends and mentors of mine who have helped with developing my jazz career and other projects in the Jazz community and I respect them,” Johnson said.

Johnson got bit by the Jazz bug by listening to her father’s Jazz records as a young girl.

“Although I grew up as a classically trained vocalist, in college I realized that Jazz fit my voice. The more I got into it, I realized Jazz was me. There’s a point where you just know. I felt free. I felt it in my body. I like the spontaneous creativity of Jazz and the communication of it.”

Johnson is confident that her passion for all things Jazz will help Jazzspace be a signature home for emerging artists for years to come.

“I hope that Jazzspace will be a place that people can learn about the history of Jazz in Pittsburgh and African-American history in general. We want to have a multi-generational component where established artists can work with younger artists,” Johnson said.

Anyone wishing to support or want more information on Jazzspace are encouraged to visit the web site at http://www.jazzspace.com. or call 412-254-3844.

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