San Jose Jazz Supports 33 Local Musicians With a New Grant

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Aneesa Strings and an upright bass bond at Oaktown Jazz Workshops
Bassist Aneesa Strings is one of San Jose Jazz’s 33 grant recipients.  (Pendarvis Harshaw/ KQED)

While COVID-19 has drastically altered the incomes and livelihoods of many, it has been particularly devastating for artists throughout the Bay Area and the nation. Since the start of the pandemic, San Jose Jazz (SJZ) has been focused on supporting musicians, hosting a livestreamed concert series beginning last March that put 100% of donations into the hands of performing artists. This week, the San Jose Jazz board of directors announced the creation of the SJZ Jazz Aid Fund, seeking to provide additional relief for musicians in their community.

“The Bay Area is home to some of the best jazz musicians, anywhere,” said longtime San Jose Jazz board member Jan Decarli, who catalyzed the project. “We need to support them financially and keep them creating so the Bay Area remains a place where jazz artists can build careers.”

Members of the Bay Area jazz community, including music critics, jazz musicians, curators and radio correspondents, provided a list of recommendations from which the cohort of grant recipients was selected. With $30,000 in donations from board members and an additional $3,000 raised in the last months of 2020, the Jazz Aid Fund will provide 33 musicians with grants of $1,000 each to support themselves and create new work that will be premiered by SJZ.

The grantees include a diverse set of musicians of all kinds, including producers, vocalists, composers and more. Some, like San Francisco native and Grammy-nominated Afro-Latin percussionist John Santos, have already had long careers spanning decades, while others are younger, like pianist and The New School alum Javier Santiago.

Others have created their own spaces within the musical community, like Adam Theis, an Oakland-based multi-instrumentalist, producer, bandleader and composer who is also the co-founder and director of Jazz Mafia, a collective of local jazz, hip-hop, classical and global musicians. “To be commissioned to create a new work and to be paid fairly for it, especially in these upside-down times, is huge,” said Theis. “Not only does it help me stay afloat financially, but it is a huge morale booster and an encouraging reminder that the Bay Area does have love and support for its artists.”


In 2021, SJZ plans to support even more artists through continued fundraising, and 10 artists from the original cohort of 33 will receive an additional grant. Those 10 musicians will record videos of full performances in a new music studio currently being developed by SJZ, to be used as promotional tools for the artists and released online.