The NEA—that’s the National Endowment for the Arts, not the National Education Association, which precedes it in a Google search—was created in 1965, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). As with various policy plans, they were originated—along with, for example, the Great Society and the Vietnam Conflict, as the war was known at that time—during the Kennedy Administration, but they saw their full flower under the Johnson Administration. The Jazz Masters Fellowship program was a latecomer to this federal arts party, debuting in 1981, though the first individual grant to a jazz musician was awarded in 1969 to George Russell.
Rather than recount the jazz history of the NEA, which includes the long-lost years of grants to individual artists, as well as Jazz Masters, or compare jazz support to classical support, all of which is covered at some length in Ka-ching, this section will examine other jazz-related awards, both public and private, and offer additional considerations of Jazz Masters honorees, particularly the handful of avant-gardists among them. I’ll also take a supplemental look at related Congressional jazz policy issues (can you say “national treasure”?), which, again, are examined in the book.