International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ)

The Story of the International Association of Schools of Jazz

by David Liebman (founder and artistic director)

15-im-Image_name-4198Teaching jazz was completely foreign to me during my early musical life. Musicians from my era (basically the 1960s) for the most part did not go to school for jazz although there were some places such as Berklee, University of Miami, North Texas and others. But in the New York area there were no schools nor were there any teachers of jazz around, except for Lennie Tristano with whom I took some lessons with. As is said, I learned “from the street”, by trial and error, observation and a lot of luck. In fact the idea of teaching jazz was an anathema to me and many musicians of that period.

In the late 1970s I received a call from noted educator, Jamey Aebersold to teach at a clinic during in Hays, Kansas. To be honest I had never heard the word “clinic” associated with jazz and did not know Aebersold or his play along records which he was already involved in. In any case I spent a few days in the middle of a snowy January on the prairie playing with drummer Ed Soph and bassist Rufus Reid and giving a few talks to the students. Jamey invited me to be on his staff for the several weeks spent doing clinics all over the States during the summer, which I did for the next few years. It was at these clinics that I met David Baker, Jerry Coker, Dan Haerle and others who were the pioneer authors of jazz education texts. I was very impressed by their musicianship and teaching skills which transformed the learning of jazz from what appeared to me to be a mystery to a discipline. It was an awakening and the idea of teaching jazz became acceptable. Also, due to a variety of reasons at the time I was disillusioned with the jazz field and needed something to get me on track and rededicate myself. Teaching seemed to be both a way to help make a living while at the same time doing something positive. So I learned how to be better at it and began giving classes all over the world, many of which were along with my group at the time, Quest, which included pianist Richie Beirach. Books and videos followed and teaching became a steady part of my life during the 1980s.

It was during my travels to so many places, especially in Europe that I realized the obvious. Everyone who is learning an art form like jazz is learning the same material, though it may be presented in different languages. I mean Miles is Miles and Duke is Duke no matter where you are or how you say it. The music is truly universal. Yet from what I could see, musicians and teachers in one country, say Germany, had no idea who the key players and/or teachers were in a neighboring country like France. It seemed that the time worn concept of networking would benefit everyone.

With some thinking about it and correspondence to some of the individuals I had met in Europe over the years (as well as some good friends of mine, Steve Lipman from the Berklee School of Music and Leon Segal from Israel), I began to formulate the concepts of what would be come the International Association of Schools of Jazz. (My original letter appears below.). Basically, the idea was not to duplicate the work of the IAJE, an organization founded in America which is a network of teachers involved in jazz and is quite large in membership. My basic goal was to bring students together from everywhere to play, interact and hopefully form lasting relationships and associations that would promote positive cross cultural communication. In other words, the timeless ideal of promoting brotherhood and peace across cultural and geographical borders using something that incorporated a common language to facilitate the goal-in this case, the music called jazz.

What happened next was magical. After sending several letters out and receiving positive responses to my idea I called a meeting for April 22, 1989 using the offices of my publisher of the time, Advance Music in Rottenburg, Germany. My appeal was direct-those who were interested in really accomplishing something should meet me that day. Lo and behold 13 schools from 10 countries showed up including Israel, US, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, England and Ireland. The representative from the Royal Conservatory in Den Haag, Netherlands, Walter Turkenburg had come on the recommendation of the CIM School in Paris. I did not know him personally but he immediately made it clear that he could help me take care of the business of setting up and running the organization. He still serves as the Chairman of the IASJ. That meeting in 1989 was historic and the feeling was unbelievable to have all those people in the same room, but now there was work to do.

Walter came to visit me in the US and we thought out the basic plans. The idea was to include schools that were private, neighborhood types like the Tailler de Musicos in Barcelona as well as state funded conservatories such as the Royal Conservatory where Walter presided over the jazz department. Walter took care of incorporating the organization as a non profit in the Netherlands and we became a legal association. Our first Annual Jazz Meeting was held in the Royal Conservatory in June, 1990. We decided that if only five schools came we would go forward, but were amazed that students from all the original attendees to the German meeting sent students and teachers.

From then to know, there have been meetings (listed below) every year since 1990 to which several hundred students, teachers and administrators have attended. Our membership includes over 30 countries and several dozen schools from every continent. It is really something special when all these students meet the first day and hear each other play at the “audition”. Then without possibly being able to even communicate verbally because of language barriers, they are placed in combos ranging from 6 to 8 members to rehearse every day for a final concert as well as in the case of some of the more recent meetings, a recording to be held a few days later in the week. The evolution of camaraderie, musical explorations and relationships from day to day is fantastic to witness. We have purposely kept the meeting small and personal so that everyone will get to know each other and have a chance to really play at jam sessions and performances. The main idea is quality rather than quantity. I honestly feel that what we are doing is contributing to peace and harmony in the world, besides promoting the future of jazz as evidenced by these amazingly talented young performers.

Of course I have personal goals that I hope can be realized which of course means funding and all the other kinds of things that go along with the growth of any organization. We have attempted in some ways to find support from international bodies and musical groups but so far we have not been able to dedicate the resources necessary to accomplish this large undertaking. After all, it is a volunteer organization and the leadership are full time teachers or administrators while I of course am always traveling and performing. But it is important to have goals for when the time comes which I am confident it will. My dreams range from the idealistic to the practical.

-For as many countries represented in the United Nations, at least one membership from each country.
-Outreach to new schools of jazz that are developing worldwide for guidelines on how to teach jazz as well as the usual teacher-student interaction; bring those students ot the annual Jazz Meeting.
– Establish a center where ongoing activities including workshops, performances, lectures, etc., can take place throughout the year. In particular, developing educational programs to accommodate all age levels from young children and parents to retired people, from laymen to professionals; also interdisciplinary workshops with the other arts.
– Outreach programs to play at schools, retired homes, prisons, hospitals and other community events.
– Sponsor IASJ student and teacher tours and recordings.
Establishing the IASJ is by far the most important work I have done in my life as a professional musician. It surpasses my own career and experiences, which although have made me what I am, pale in comparison to the positive and far reaching work that the organization has accomplished and continues doing. I feel like I have made a real contribution to the world and will continue my work in this way as long as possible.

The web site for information and to join is

The following link is a promo video about the IASJ documentary film by Leon Segal:

CLICK HERE to download an archive of Liebman (Artistic Director) and Turkenburg (Executive Director) columns for IASJ Newsletters from 1990 through 2011 (nearly 90mb).

For 2012 newsletters through the present click here:

Fall 2016 Newsletter. 

27th IASJ Jazz Meeting – Siena, Italy, USA


Scenes from auditions and jam sessions:

Included below are the IASJ mission statement; the list of where meetings have been held and being planned also my introductory letter from 1987 to various educators.

Mission Statement

The music known as jazz has evolved into a truly global art form since its inception over one hundred years ago in America. It is played, taught and appreciated throughout the world while at the same time assimilating a rich array of musical influences along the way. Through its core values of freedom of expression, group interaction, shared respect and individual responsibility, jazz embodies the highest ideals of art and human creativity and has emerged as a powerful tool for promoting harmonious relations across highly diverse cultural boundaries.

The IASJ is a worldwide organization committed to promoting these values in both the musical world and society as a whole. Formed in 1989, the organization is based in Den Haag, Netherlands. Membership comes from all the continents and nearly forty countries, ranging from large state-funded conservatories to small privately run schools as well as individual educators and artists. The IASJ achieves its goals through a variety of activities including a posting board on the web, a newsletter and exchange programs during the academic year.

The focal point of the IASJ is the Annual Jazz Meeting held in a different country each year. These meetings enable the most promising students from member schools to participate in international ensembles, jam sessions, recording projects and master classes coached by top level artists from around the world. Attending representatives and teachers from IASJ member schools meet during this period to discuss pedagogical, philosophical and administrative issues. Ongoing student and teacher exchanges result from this interaction as well as the promotion of more performing opportunities for all the participants. The IASJ, through the universal power of jazz music, serves as a positive force towards encouraging cross cultural communication and understanding.

IASJ Annual Jazz Meetings (since 1990):

2020 – Argentina (Pending)
2019 –
Croatia (Pending)
2018 –
2017 –
Siena, Italy
2016 –
 Boston, MA, USA
2015 –
Lisbon, Portugal
2014 –
Capetown, South Africa
2013 –
Aarhus, Denmark
2012 – Graz, Austria
2011 – Souza Lima School, Sao Paulo, Brazil
2010 – 20th Anniversary-Royal Conservatory, the Hague, Netherlands
2009 – Lucerne, Swwitzerland
2008 – Riga, Latvia
2007 – Sienna Associazone, Siena, Italy
2006 – Louisville, Kentucky
2005 – Krakow, Poland
2004 – Freiburg Germany
2003 – Pedagogical Meeting – Royal Conservatory, Den Haag, Netherlands
2002 – Pop and Jazz Academy, Sibelius Academy, Poly Technic University-Helsinki, Finland
2001 – Berklee School of Music, Boston, USA
2000 – Paris Conservatory, Paris, France
1999 – Escola Estudio,Santiago De Compestela, Spain
1998 – Hochschule, Koln, Germany
1997 – Siena Associazone, Siena, Italy
1996 – Rhythmic Conservatory, Copenhagen, Denmark sponsors the Baltic Cruise
1995 – New School, New York, USA
1994 – Rimon School, Tel Aviv, Israel
1993 – Hochschule, Graz, Austria
1992 – Siena Associazone, Siena, Italy
1991 – Newpark School, Dublin, Ireland
1990 – The Royal Conservatory, Den Haag, Netherlands


Massimo Cavalli-teacher in Lisbon, Portugal Meeting-2015:

“I felt that this meeting was a great moment of communion between the students, teachers and all the people that were present in this 25th IASJ meeting in Lisbon!!! Because of your vision and perseverance you and Wouter and a small community of dreamers create this that today is the true United Nations of Jazz!!! I’m so proud to be part of that and I hope to help for the future of this beautiful family!”

Nick Hetko-University of Miami-Capetown Meeting-2014:

“I honestly don’t know how much room there is for imporvement. I guess the sky is always the limit, but it was one of the best experiences of my life and for me I don’t think it could have been better. The only suggestion I have is to make it longer!!”

Liliana Fartaria -student from Portugal wrote lyrics to a chorale performed at meeting-Capetown-2014:

Saint Anthony Chorale: “There’s something I can’t see; But my heart feels the beating of these days
And when the music plays we all become one; Although an ocean blues between us.
All the drums dance; Different voices; Trumpet’s prayer into the sky; And somehow the groove takes over
As only one language.; There’s something we can feel.So strong, telling us we’re free.”

John Egizi-student Berklee School, Boston, USA-Denmark Meeting-2013:

“First rate networking opportunities. Just the right amount of downtime and that paper with everyone’s name on it is GOLDEN.”

Dr.Mageshan Naidoo-Director UNISA-Pretoria, South Africa-Denmark Meeting-2013:

“Thank you for your message and for the inspiring words. Inspired is what I feel after my time at IASJ with the wonderful students and amazing teachers from all over the world. Spending time with you has been a dream come true! Thank you for your wonderful embracing spirit and love. I feel blessed. Your daily lectures and informal chats have been more than inspirational and have given me new energy to travel my journey in jazz. Thank you again! IASJ is the most important body for Jazz Education today, a message I take to my institution, Unisa, the SAJE and my colleagues and friends in South Africa.”

Asta Pylkkanen-student from University of Applied Sciences-Finland Meeting-2010:

I really enjoyed being here and look forward to maybe coming back someday. Thank you all for the valuable work you are doing for and with us.”

Renato Vasconcellos-teacher-Brasilia, Brazil-Lucerne Meeting-2009:

Lieb, I thank you so much for connecting me to the IASJ. I feel honored to be part of this dream where people from different countries and cultures communicate via music and share love, peace, art, good food, and beauty.”

Katchie Cartwright-teacher-Buena Vista College-San Antonio, Texas USA-Paris Meeting-2000:

“This is a wonderful organization! What an incredible week. The students were amazing-talented, diverse, open, accomplished. The diversity of viewpoints among the teachers was equally rich. It’s so important to exchange ideas and approaches with people whose curricula and perspectives are so different. The IASJ is truly a 21st century academy of jazz. Thank you for letting be a part of it.”

Nicole Guiland-student-New School, New York City-USA-Koln, Germany Meeting-1998:                                                                                                                               “I have always wanted to come to something like this: a meeting of young minds from all around the world, to talk about jazz. Well, this meeting definitely satisfied my desire for such a thing. Now I know that jazz does live in young hearts and that no matter what happens, jazz lives on.”

Kornelia Deppe – Hochschule Franz Liszt – Weimar, Germany:
“The first days were hard. The standard is really very high and so the competition also. That was quite tough for me in the beginning but this really made me think about what I want to do and I had to really take a close and honest look at myself. Thanks to everyone who made this event happen!”


Matthieu Donarier-student from Paris Conservatory, France-Baltic Cruise Meeting-1996:
At the beginning, after a 19 hour bus trip from France, it was clear to me that it was not only a jazz clinic, it was an adventure to an unknown part of the world. One hour later I was in the Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen, Denmark and there, what a shock! Musicians from all over the world. “Where do you come from? What instrument do you play?” During the first days on the ship there was a lot of excitement of course, but also a feeling that everyone was looking curious at each other. All waiting for the others to play. Just to check out the average level, because finally, one question remains during the first days: “Who am I compared with the others?” Fortunately, the organizers of the cruise had done everything to make us feel OK. For example by placing one musician per country in creating the combos. Also one country per cabin (which is good anyway, to relax a few hours each day with good old French jokes). And it worked! After a short time, and a lot of rehearsals and jam sessions (after all, what do jazz musicians do when they meet – they jam – no other way – whether you talk together or not), contacts inevitably become deeper with some musicians. From this point, you enter into the second stage of the cruise: after the audition, you begin to exchange more thins with less people. It is fantastic to be in this situation. You don’t have to care about what you say, or how you say it. You can let your social habits down. The important thing is what you PLAY. Because in that situation where nobody knows or judges each other, who you are is what you play. It is an incredible experience about giving everything in the music, all day long for ten days, cut off from the outside world. It is a special feeling of being in the right place at the right time. Personally, and as a conclusion, I would say that the cruise has opened many doors for me; wonderful breath for continuing my job; the opportunity to know many wonderful young musicians, who I know I will play with later on, and it also opened my eyes to the fact that jazz is really a worldwide expression.”  

Letter of Introduction to Educators

from David Liebman
November 22, 1987

As you are aware of, I have been teaching seminars and workshops all over the world for several years now. Most of you have seen me teach and/or perform, either alone or in conjunction with my closest associates. Because of my wide travels and experience, I am in a very advantageous position to make some observations about jazz education.

It is becoming increasingly clear that jazz has finally attained the status of a bona fide art form with a well established legacy. Of course, there is still far to go in matters such as funding, but in general the situation has vastly improved over the past decade. Accompanying this positive development is the fact that there is a growing demand for education in the field. This is apparent from the proliferation of schools and associations all over the world featuring jazz education, as well as the large number of interested students. It is precisely because of the global growth that I feel it is time to form a network and put like-minded people in touch with each other.

Jazz has truly become universal. It has largely outgrown its American and Black roots to embrace all nationalities. More and more the majority of students are from the outside the United States. To my mind, even the word “jazz” is an anachronism. This field could be better described as contemporary improvised music. With this description there is the implication and the reality of a true fusion of all contemporary musical idioms. This means the mixtures of people and musical heritages from the world community. Cannot jazz include Spanish, Israeli, Danish, Japanese, etc., influences all together?

Of course the answer is obvious. The fact that groups regularly integrate music from all cultures and styles is taken for granted by contemporary improvisers. With artists already mixing together it follows that the educational philosophy offered to young students should be similar.

I am proposing that a network be set up whereby we could institute a wide variety of programs attempting to achieve the goal of high level communication between various centers of learning. Activities would include exchange programs between schools, a newsletter, a yearly meeting, multinational big bands and ensembles and more. The possibilities are endless!!

If such a program could work, governments, corporations, foundations and cultural societies would see a great opportunity to help us; the media would have something truly approaching brotherhood to focus on; the musical interaction could result in widened work opportunities for all involved and most important, the art would be constantly rejuvenated and energized if only because of the participation of so many young people. Even curriculum and texts used by the various schools could be shared and improved upon. This could be a true United Nations of Contemporary Improvised Music. The underlying premise is that jazz, an already acknowledged universal music and language would serve as the context and rationale for the fostering of cross-cultural communication and inter-cultural creativity.

The classical musicians have been doing this sort of thing for years. It is time that we begin to organize-small at first and slowly, in a true spirit of cooperation.

You know me personally, some better than others. You are aware of my organizational and leadership powers if you have ever seen me teach. And hopefully, there is recognition of my artistry. You can be sure that I wouldn’t begin such a project without realizing its difficulty and scope. I have been looking for a way to spread the intrinsic power of this music for years. I hope you can help me realize this potential to really affect the world in a positive manner. I await your responses.

Sincerely yours,
David Liebman


The following statement from the IASJ brochure represents the rationale for the founding of the organization written by David Liebman.

“…Jazz is acknowledged as a universal language with its roots in the Afro-European-American experience. The multi-cultural blending inherent in jazz inevitably leads to the inclusion of people from diverse locations and cultures.

As a human art form, jazz vividly demonstrates the all-important balance between individual freedom and group interaction. It exemplifies the act of understanding and accepting individual perspectives and preferences within the context of sharing with others.

For these reasons jazz is a perfect vehicle for cross cultural communication. It begins with communication on a musical level and evolves to interaction on a real, practical level: human understanding.

There is a great similarity between schools teaching an art form, regardless of location, because all schools cover the same material. Jazz students also have common characteristics, such as artistic ideals, a love of jazz, a similar age group and the common goal of playing the music well. Creating an IASJ Network where they can meet each other and interact in a positive artistic environment is a real service to the future.

The function of the IASJ is to provide an environment where these activities can take place…”

The IASJ at Mid Life

by Walter Turkenburg
Minding and mining the facts – 2006

In April 2006 I met jazz bass player and educator Ulf Radelius, one of the founders of the IASJ. Ulf has a clear recollection of the first gathering o the IASJ in Germany in April 1989. He knows who was there, who brought his wife, their names and the names of the kids. Ulf Radelius also knows what happened, who said what, what was decided and how it worked out. I was very surprised with his extremely detailed recollection of the history of the IASJ.

Although I have participated in every IASJ Jazz Meeting I am not as good as Ulf in remembering the details. I realized that the entire IASJ is not very good in remembering its past let alone celebrating its success! The figures however are impressive. The Annual IASJ Jazz Meetings have taken place in eleven different counties in the past seventeen years. Although the IASJ is often referred to as a European organization, the country in which most of the meetings have taken place is the USA: three times. Seven European countries follow with two meetings in the past. Statistically speaking, The largest figure is the total amount of participants in the past seventeen years and that is about two thousand. That’s not bad. Another relatively big figure is the hundred combos formed at all of the meetings. Not bad either for the relatively small organization the IASJ really is. However, at gatherings of our friends, the IAJE, there are about seven thousand people and at my middle size conservatory I schedule about eighty combos every year.

The true power of the IASJ lays in the quality of the small numbers. Each of the hundred combos that were active at IASJ Jazz Meetings consisted of six to eight players from different nationalities and from all continents. There is, to my knowledge, no other organization in the world that has been able to bring that many jazz combos together with such a high difference in the cultural backgrounds of its players. This tremendous result is to be regarded as a high level of cultural dialogue that is extremely seldom seen in arts education.

This high level of cultural diversity of the utmost importance for the development of jazz as an art form. Students at jazz schools all over the world have an excellent sense for what is the latest thing in jazz and where the real action is taking place. This “what’s happening now” is one of the main issues of their conversations. They try to figure out when and where new things are occurring and if they are able to contribute and experience them. The IASJ Jazz Meetings have become opportunities to participate in such new experiences. A selected student for an IASJ Jazz Meeting will enjoy all the sweet things that come with it such as the trip to another country and the CD that will arrive at his home half a year later with some of his playing on it. All of that is nice but not the most important. The attraction for a participating student is the experience during a full week of being at the forefront of the development of jazz, being in the very centre of where it all is happening!

I give an example to show my point. In the mid nineties about ten years ago at the IASJ Jazz Meetings, the jam sessions bands started to mix all sorts of patterns in the rhythm section. As a result the wildest spectrum of grooves were played. In the mix everything was allowed and anything could happen. In these jam sessions the students did not play the Real Book standards anymore. They jazzed-up tunes from the pop repertoire they grew up with. In the process of jazzing up excerpts from pop idioms, bits and pieces of world music were included as well resulting in some incredible moments of diverse rhythms all coming out at the same time. The “head” or melody section was no longer a safe place. Bebop, Cool Jazz, Free Jazz but also New Orleans style kind of improvisations were mixed in one tune and sometimes even in one solo. Consciously or not, the students took a non-historic approach to jazz improvisation. What happened was the deconstruction of jazz. It was seen as a gimmick at that time, ten years ago. Had our dear and respected excellent students been drinking too much, the teachers were wondering?

This was not the case. Coming from all over the world and jamming at IASJ sessions, these students tested their powers. They were looking for new ways to express themselves by comparing and deciding what worked and what did not. What was seen as fooling around at that time has become a dominant practice in jazz ten years later. Vijay Iyer, Ethan Iverson and Brad Meldau have capitalized on a deconstructive approach by making it their main way of working. By the way, Meldau was a participant of one of the very first IASJ Jazz Meetings and still remembers this very well.

The power of the IASJ is that it serves as the birth place of new developments in jazz and jazz education. Like everything that is born it starts on a small scale. New developments cannot be forced. However, there a good and there are better circumstances that can lead to new directions. I dare say that IASJ Jazz Meetings are surely among the better situations occurring worldwide responsible for generating new ways of thinking and doing in jazz, if not the best!


World-class jazz

From the Courier-Journal June 2006
U of L plays host to prestigious global gathering next week

By Jeffrey Lee Puckett

For the past decade, the profile of the University of Louisville’s School of Music has risen steadily among jazz educators, and its Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studies program is now considered one of the nation’s strongest.

That reputation will get an enormous boost next week when the School of Music and the Jazz Studies program play host to the 16th annual International Association of Schools of Jazz meeting. More than 100 participants from 19 countries are expected to attend the June 25-30 meeting.

U of L is only the third school in the United States to hold the event, after New York’s New School (1995) and Boston’s Berklee School of Music (2001). Other meetings have been held in such locales as France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Ireland and Denmark.

“It is rather special,” said Mike Tracy, director of U of L’s jazz studies program. “Just having us recognized to do it is a great privilege. This will give us even more credence throughout the world, and in the long run we’ll have much greater interaction with schools throughout the world.”

Lectures, classes and performances will dominate the meeting, primarily on the Belknap campus. The majority of participants are students, who will be divided into ensembles following a quick audition for an intense week of study and performances.

Several public concerts are scheduled. Many of the participants will stay in town for Aebersold’s annual Summer Jazz Workshops, to be held on campus July 2-7 and July 9-14. Tracy also helps organize those workshops, which means a busy summer “vacation” for him and the School of Music staff.

“I’ve definitely asked them to do more than they usually do during the summer … but they’ve all stepped up and are excited about it. It has really been a great effort.”

Local roots

Saxophonist David Liebman founded IASJ in 1987 and presided over its first meeting in 1989, in Rottenburg, Germany. He remains its artistic director and is proud that hundreds of students and educators from more than 40 countries and every continent have attended.

“Forming the IASJ … and being involved with the meetings all these years has been the most gratifying experience of my musical life,” the Brooklyn native said via e-mail from Europe, where he was teaching.

“I feel like I made a contribution to the world by bringing like-minded young people together from different cultures.”

In a sense, next week’s meeting brings the IASJ full circle. In the late 1970s, New Albany saxophonist Aebersold introduced Liebman to the culture of jazz education through his clinics, which he was staging nationwide. Liebman became dedicated to jazz education, leading directly to the IASJ.

“I look at my long relationship with Jamey as one of the constants in my musical life; we continue to publish new products of mine, and I am always happy to do a day or two at his summer camps,” said Liebman, who was in Miles Davis’ seminal early-1970s electro-funk band.

Liebman was a veteran educator by 1987, with an international schedule of clinics, when he realized that students in all countries were studying what he calls “a truly universal music” — but were insulated from one another despite their common language of jazz.

Unification is Liebman’s keyword. The IASJ’s mission statement says, “Through its core values of freedom of expression, group interaction, shared respect and individual responsibility, jazz embodies the highest ideals of art and human creativity. It has emerged as a powerful tool for promoting harmonious relations across highly diverse cultural boundaries.”

The IASJ was patterned after the International Association of Jazz Education, a much larger group founded in 1968. While they share some aspects, the IAJE devotes much of its energies to developing jazz programs in schools and ensuring that jazz is part of curriculums already in place.

The IASJ is more people-oriented, you might say.

“The centerpiece of the meetings is student-to-student contact,” Liebman said. “Coming from a country which may have a small jazz scene (compared to the United States), it is important that a young, aspiring musician realize that he is not alone and that people of his (or her) generation are involved with exactly the same material.

“It doesn’t matter what language one learns jazz in, since Duke Ellington is Duke no matter where.”

Improvisation in action

Tracy was at an IASJ meeting in 2003 when he heard that the host for the 2006 meeting had backed out. He didn’t hesitate.

“I said, ‘We’ll do it.’ Very few people knew me there, except Dave was there, and he said, ‘Yeah, Mike can take care of it.’ The next thing I knew they said, ‘Fine, click, it’s done,’ ” Tracy said.

“I had not checked with the school to find out if we had the time or space. I just said we’ll do it because I knew that it was a really good opportunity for us.”

Like the best improvised solos, Tracy’s move fell into place perfectly.

The meeting’s dates meshed with Aebersold’s workshops, and since the events shared many participants, it meant less travel time for everyone. A previously scheduled visit by four Russian educators also happily coincided with the IASJ, and School of Music Dean Christopher Doane was thrilled by the news.

“This just seemed to be the right thing to do at the right time,” Tracy said. “This won’t happen again for the University of Louisville, at least not in my lifetime.”


Jazz is an International Language

From Jazz Times – April 2006
by Nat Hentoff

Long ago, between sets by the Modern Jazz Quartet, John Lewis and I were speculating about the future of jazz. Like who – if anyone – would be the next Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker or John Coltrane. We agreed that jazz would keep on being the sound of surprise anyway, without a new colossus.

But then John surprised me. “If there is a next one,” he said, “he could be a sideman taking a chorus as we speak in a club somewhere in Romania.” I’d heard impressive players from abroad who might not have been able to speak English but where fluent in this international language. For instance, on a recording, a joyous big band in Siberia that could have warmed up its remotest hamlets.

It was with sudden force, however, that the memory of John’s vision resonated for me when I opened the December 2005 issue of the International Association of schools of Jazz Newsletter (David Liebman, Artistic Director). Located in The Hague ( the Association, formed in 1990, held its 15th Annual IASJ meeting last July in Krakow, Poland. What struck me about the review of the concert was not only that 36 schools of jazz from more than 25 countries were represented, but also the inclusion in the music of the textures and rhythms of the various indigenous cultures.

Toshiko Akiyoshi, of course, has done this very evocatively in her writings and orchestral performances; and Duke Ellington’s global travels often resulted in expanding his singular musical language with the timbres and subtle pulsations of the music he heard reverberating as he passed through. In Krakow between July 3 and 9 last year, alto saxophonist Zbigniew Namyslowski – already with some international renown – expanded his jazz quartet to encompass Gorale, a folk group. As reporting in the IASJ Newsletter:

“After an opening piece played by the jazz quartet, the folk group came on stage, singing, and took their places. The two groups then played separately, in turns and at times, together. The songs from the mountains were reworked into jazz compositions on which the jazz quartet improvised.” There was also a lecture by Namyslowski on how folk melodies from the mountain people in central Europe can nurture jazz.

I await the recordings of the concerts; and if I ever get to Poland, I anticipate nights in Krakow where there are many jazz clubs, two of them – where jam session took place every evening – “are located in beautiful cellars with typically arched ceilings providing excellent acoustics… In ever well attended jam session, the students had the opportunity to play in endless styles and grooves.

From these cross-cultural experiences will come jazz musicians who have not only absorbed the blues and other fundamental elements of American jazz roots themselves part of what Alan Lomax called “the rainbow of American music” but will also help further create, from their own traditions, a musical rainbow circling the globe.

All I knew of Krakow before learning of the IASJ 2005 meeting there was that it is again a center of Klezmer music. I said “again” because the Nazi’s, while exterminating Polish Jews and their deeply rich culture, sent, I’m sure, many klezmorim to the crematoriums. Before Hitler’s almost final solution, in Jewish shtetls (ghettos) throughout Eastern and Central Europe, local musicians made an uncertain living traveling across different countries – trying to avoid being caught in pogroms – and absorbing the music they heard between their gigs.

Many of these improvising musicians were part of the Jewish emigration, along with my parents, to America, where, being adaptable, they played in many different contexts, including Broadway pit bands and in the then flourishing Yiddish theater on New York’s Second Avenue where tragic dramas were interspersed with jubilant musical comedies.

The first music I ever heard that made me run to hear more, almost as soon as I could walk, was a klezmer band at a wedding at a synagogue near my home in Boston that had an adjoining community hall. My mother would often run after me for fear I’d be hit by a car or by some of the young anti-Semitic hooligans that occasionally went on Jew-bashing expeditions in the neighborhood.

Although the klezmorim who so entranced me played Yiddish songs and also added their own flavors to popular standards of the time, they remained essentially improvisers. In the front line, crackling trumpet players interwove with strutting, jocular clarinetists, and with the rhythm sections transformed the wedding parties into Jewish versions of the dancers I later saw in Harlem clubs.

By the time I was also immersed in jazz, I still kept going, uninvited, to those weddings down the block. As a fledgling clarinetist, I got to talk to a klezmer master of that challenging instrument; and one afternoon, after he finished an ecstatic solo on a freilach (a swinging up tempo number) recorded for posterity by trumpeter Ziggy Elman on Benny Goodman’s “And the Angels Sing,” I expressed my great, envious pleasure at hearing the clarinet extended far beyond my strivings.

“Well,” said this jaunty member of the klezmer combo, “where do you think Benny Goodman came from?”

Reading of the commingling of cultures in Krakow last year, I noted that a Klezmer band was part of the proceedings. It occurred to me that the very first music I was drawn to, the excitement of which led me to jazz was already demonstrating that the international language of music crossed all boundaries.

From Downbeat Magazine

October 2005
By Andrew Greiner

Even though jazz is an American art form, that doesn’t mean that jazz education is endemic to the United States. For a number of years, aspiring jazz students have had the option to study abroad with some brave high school graduates traveling to vibrant European locales, such as the northern Netherland’s conservatory in Groningen, to learn about pedagogy and improvisation from migrated jazz legends.

And thanks to the development of solid international jazz curricula and worldwide interest in jazz education, the classroom is becoming more than a place to learn music. It’s turning into a vehicle for diplomacy.

Just ask saxophonist David Liebman. About 16 years ago, Liebman turned his attention away from touring and recording for a spell and founded the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ) with hope of unifying an international community of music students, teachers and administrators. Since then, he has watched jazz education centers evolve around the globe.

As the IASJ’s first meeting in Rottenburg, Germany, in 1989, representatives form 10 countries, including France, Spain, Switzerland, Ireland and Sweden among others, turned out to help launch the organization. During the next years more schools from other countries continued to join the organization and attend the annual Jazz Meeting. Liebman never ceases to be amazed by the turnout. According to him, attendance at the annual IASJ Jazz Meeting in Krakow, Poland, last July was stunning.

“We had some new folks from Ukraine, Jakarta and Lithuainia” said Liebman, presently IASJ Artistic Director. “We’re doing outreach in different parts of the world. Europe is a big part of the IASJ, but there’s a big outpouring from many other countries.”

The IASJ boasts about having members from every continent and representatives from more than 30 countries normally attend their annual Jazz Meetings. Even the locations for the annual meetings are a testament to the diversity of its membership:meetings have been held in the Middle East, North America, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean  and the Baltics.

Liebman sees cross cultural communication as the ultimate benefit of a widespread international jazz education network.  He’s adamant that education is the best way to preserve jazz and that blending different cultural nuances into the music will further its development. With so many cultures now incorporating their musical idiosyncrasies into the jazz idiom, the music continues to grow and change.

“It’s amazing how good these kids sound by the end of the week, especially with the possibility of their not being able to communicate verbally due to language differences. We’re like a United Nations concept. We fill a need for people to be in touch across different cultures. To some of these people, jazz is still new. They’ve been into their own cultural music and now they’re getting the chance to learn this stuff. All of the influences blend together into a great sound. In our fifteen years we have had about 1500 students come through here ” says Liebman.

With so much development in jazz education around the world, the opportunities for students to learn by traveling is stronger than ever. Liebman says that hundreds of American students are going to Europe to study jazz because the foundation is sold and the expense is manageable.

“Tuition in Europe is minimal,” says Liebman. “And the schools are good. Americans are going overseas because they get a good education for not a lot of money. Plus they can study across genres. All schools in Europe have students from multiple countries and that situation is intensifying yearly.”

Nightclubbing in the Classroom

David Liebman believes that educational programs have saved jazz. He comes to Berklee in June to run an annual event that helps prove his theory.

By Rob Hochschild Editor
(June 15, 2001)

Saxophonist and educator David Liebman has a lot on his mind. Just ask him a few quick questions; you won’t have to wait long for the torrent of words to spill out. Liebman’s words-per-minute ratio is always high, but it spikes sharply when he’s talking about jazz and jazz education, two subjects he feels so passionately about that he founded a globe-spanning organization — the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ) — several years ago to promote them.

“The classroom, whether we like it or not, has become the substitute for the jazz club,” Liebman said during a phone call from his home in the Pocono Mountains town of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. “We do not have the jazz club six nights a week, four weeks in a row, guys hanging out and then playing until six in the morning. That’s where the innovations took place . . . people sitting around a club and playing and hearing and experimenting. Now we have the equivalent of that in the academy and the conservatory where you have a three-o’clock-in-the-afternoon ensemble under flourescent lights. Thank god it’s that. (Jazz) could have disappeared if not for that.”

Doing his part to keep jazz from vanishing, Liebman formed IASJ in 1989 to bring together jazz students and teachers from around the world to study and play together. Fifty student musicians and at least two dozen teachers from 20 countries will participate in the 12th annual IASJ meeting, to be held this year at Berklee, June 17-23.

Beyond producing a quarterly newsletter and facilitating networking activities between jazz musicians around the world, the focus of the IASJ calendar year is the annual meeting, which in past years has been held in such nations as Italy, Ireland, and Germany. As always, the central goal of the meeting is to bring together students of varying cultural backgrounds and put them together in ensembles that rehearse every day before giving concerts at the end of the week. When they’re not in combo rehearsals, the students attend lectures, instrumental master classes, and jam sessions in a local club. The event also gives teachers an opportunity to meet and brainstorm on educational approaches.

After an opening ceremony in Berklee’s David Friend Recital Hall on June 17, the meeting will quickly move onto the music as students take turns stepping on stage in what Liebman called a “forced jam session.” The two-and-a-half-hour performance will act as a long rotating audition, as Liebman and his teaching staff assess the abilities of each player and determine the personnel of six combos.

“Less than two hours after they play for us, they’re in the ensemble rooms meeting the other musicians,” said Liebman, who carries the title of IASJ artistic director. “The idea is to get the students to interact and to get it together with very little input from teachers. I tell them, ‘You are now in a professional situation with six or seven musicians you do not know, probably do not speak the same language with and your job is to put a performance together in four or five days.'”

The 2001 meeting presents one additional major challenge for students. They will be asked to organize for themselves a recording session, taking advantage of Berklee’s state-of-the-art recording facilities. The players, who generally use their own original compositions, will have to agree not only on what tunes each combo will perform, but what tunes to record. It’s all part of Liebman’s plan to thrust them into a situation that emulates a professional gig as much as possible. At the end of the week, each student will leave Boston with his or her work on CD.

“I tell them that their job is to put the music on,” Liebman said. ‘And if you don’t like the piano player, that’s your problem, because you’ve got to make it happen.’ This is the way it is in the real world. The musical results at the end of the week are always amazing. They’re all at a very high level, and it’s unbelievable what they do considering they didn’t know each other at the beginning of the week.”

The real world of music is very familiar to the 54-year-old Liebman, who has maintained a professional career for more than 30 years. The New York native fell in love with jazz as a teenager while watching Coltrane perform in Manhattan jazz clubs. After graduating from college he quickly ascended to the highest levels of the jazz world, landing extended gigs in the bands of Miles Davis and former John Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones. He later led groups of his own featuring bandmates like John Scofield, Al Foster, and Kenny Kirkland.

In the 1980s, Liebman began teaching jazz around the world. As he met musicians at schools in disparate locales, he observed a disconnection between far-flung educators.

“I realized that a lot of them were not aware of each other, especially in Europe,” Liebman said. “It seemed a shame. I could see that there would be great unity if we could start a network of people doing the same things in different places.”

But while there is overlap in some of the educational strategies, the young musicians who are selected to participate in the IASJ meeting typically represent a wide range of jazz styles.

“There’s all kinds of influences from different countries,” Liebman said. “They may use a folk tune from Sweden. You may hear an Israeli tune. The word jazz has become a giant umbrella that includes so many different kinds of improvised music.”

Visitors to the Boston area will get to hear what Liebman means for themselves on June 22 and 23, when the six IASJ combos perform for the general public in concerts at the Berklee Performance Center. Liebman says the high quality of the performances stems from the unusual nature of the program and its participants.

“You’re talking about a pretty elite, high-class group of individuals who have a high level of intelligence and sensitivity,” Liebman said. “Knowing that they enjoy the music enough to come to this meeting and study it with 50 others . . . makes it a pretty deep event.”

From the International Herald Tribune

by Mike Zwerin
June 2000

Dave Liebman has participated in far too many round tables. He also conducts a prodigious string of workshops and seminars while continuing to play top soprano saxophone and putting together new music. Unlike many American jazz musicians who avoid “foreigners” putting their Euro-twist on everything, he goes out of his way to link up with them.

Constantly crossing borders, he was increasingly struck with their rigidity. Fine Spanish musicians were unknown in, say, Germany, world class French players hardly worked in Sweden, while few Japanese played Europe. Forget globalization. When small, local, low-rent jazz schools began to spring up around the world, Liebman spotted a trend. He called it “cross cultural permutations”. He picked up the ball and ran with it.

Invitations were sent out, a trial balloon sent up, and it came to pass that the first meeting of the International Association of Schools of Jazz took place in 1989. Representatives of 15 schools from 12 countries showed up, and it was held at the Royal Conservatory in Den Haag, Netherlands, still the association’s headquarters. There has been a meeting every year since, mostly at schools well off the main drag: Dublin, Tel Aviv, Santaiago De Compostela, Siena, Graz and even one on a Baltic cruise boat!!

The 11th Meeting which will take place from July 2 through 8 in Paris will be the same as the others, only more so. It is in association with the La Villette Jazz Festival and the Paris Conservatory of Music. First time big associations “jack up the stakes,” Liebman says. “I like that. I’d like to be able to say one day that I changed the world a little.”

Playing with Miles Davis can do that to you. By the time Miles made his comeback in the ‘80s, Liebman was gone. Still, Miles regularly called him long distance for recommendations whenever he needed sidemen. Liebman always makes it his business to know good young players. He also spent periods with Elvin Jones and Chick Corea, and with several groups over the years under his leadership. He has written method books and produced teaching videos. He feels an obligation to invest well-gotten gains for the common good.

The approaching meeting will begin with the formation of ensembles from the nearly 40 schools from over 20 countries attending. They will rehearse and play concerts during the week-long festival’s final days.

Liebman will perform with two groups of his own, including “my French band”. Like Wynton Marsalis, he is a major league triple threat: educator, organizer, music maker. One difference is that Marsalis has a rich and well organized power base at Lincoln Center in New York City, while Liebman still lives in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, sends out his own faxes and e-mails, and in fact has no power base at all. At the age of 54, he deals with the “vagabondage” of the jazz life with ever more aplomb. Somebody once said that Liebman’s music is “easy to praise and hard to categorize”. So is he.

“The meetings begin when the cats suss each other out.” Liebman’s mid-Atlantic ear is well honed by now. “They schmooze, they hang and they jam together. The first thing the students learn is that they are unable to communicate with each other by language in some cases. This is the first time that many of them  have been out of their respective countries.” Six, seven or eight piece combos will be put together with music as the international language; each will play a one hour set during the festival. “They are in a professional situation for the first time”, Liebman says, obviously excited by it.

The students will find they are playing with people at least as good as them. It’s a major test of maturity. And Liebman has a pretty good idea of the cultural bridges to be built and crossed. “The balance between melody, harmony and rhythm is never the same. In Scandinavia the music is lyrical and folk-songy. The Irish are basically beboppers, most like the Americans. In Germany, free improvisation is very important. Melody is supreme in Italy. In France, it’s sort of a marriage of the musette with contemporary music. Paris is a world capital and has its colonial tradition to call upon. Amazing mixtures!”

Like it or not, what used to be called “America’s classical music” is no longer American. It has been globalized. “Put simply, Liebman says” We just want to get cats from different cultures to play with and get to know each other. Maybe this will help towards better relations between cultures.”

Two for the Road

The following is an article about Lieb’s educational activities
from Jazz Times 1997
by Bret Primack

When we caught up with Dave Liebman, on the eve of his saxophone master class, held every August at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, he was basking in the afterglow of the annual meeting of the group he founded, the International Association of Schools of Jazz, the release of a new recording with the Dave Liebman group, A Brazilian tinged outing on Arkadia Jazz, New Vistas, and his latest performance of John Coltrane’s “Meditations,” at this year’s North Sea Jazz Festival. (A recorded version of “Meditations” is available from Arkadia Jazz.)

Since the late ’60s, the prolific Brooklyn-born saxman has been a one man jazz commando squad, with performances in every corner of the planet and over 75 recordings as a leader, as well as a major force in jazz education with clinics, master classes, books, videos and play-alongs.

Yet alongside his many magical musical moments with Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, Chick Corea and his own groups, he states that founding and serving as Artistic Director of the IASJ “is the greatest thing I’ve done in my life, in addition to my daughter, of course. With the IASJ, I see firsthand how young people communicate with each other with jazz as a vehicle and taking place on a very high level. Jazz is unique because of its looseness. You’ve got to be an individual but also part of a group. At our annual meeting, I take great satisfaction in seeing how they grow, how they interact. I feel like the father, the daddy, the cappo, with a lot of grandchildren running out in the world.”

Headquartered in The Hague, in the Netherlands, Lieb founded the organization in 1989 to “bring students together using jazz as a medium for promoting positive cross cultural communications. Today we have individuals and schools from over 35 countries as part of the group.”

At the yearly meetings, members come together for a week to play, exchange ideas, hang out and network. “We also have a newsletter,” Lieb explains, “and a magazine, Jazz Changes, which purposely focuses on subjects that are controversial, like gays in jazz and the place of women within this music, etc.:

Lieb believes the proliferation of educational aids has contributed to the global flowering of jazz. “The foreign thing just grows and grows, “he believes. “It’s an international music now, way beyond America, beyond its origins. And this will only continue as now it’s slowly working its way into Asia and Africa, more so as their leisure time increases.”

For Lieb, the biggest change in the learning process has been “that students are now given everything they need, from A to Z; all possible materials. At this year’s IASJ conference in Siena, Italy one of the teachers had an AKAI machine called the Riff-o-matic, which allows you to slow down a tape but keep the same pitch, so you can more easily transcribe. When I was learning, it sometimes took days just to get a chorus down. The students today have a higher level of development than the previous generation because they absorb what’s in the air. Younger musicians have more skills. The trade off is that individualism can be lost. It gets harder and harder to find true personalities because of mass teaching and the mass culture, which focuses on conformity rather than individuality.”

Liebman Leads Cross-Pollination Jazz Project

From Downbeat Magazine
by Frank Alkyer – 1994

When it comes to jazz, there’s one thing Dave Liebman said he believes strongly: The future of this music rests with the educational community. Soprano saxophonist/educator Liebman is the founder and artistic director of the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ), a loose organization of more than 40 universities, conservatories, and music schools from around the globe. Founded in 1989, the IASJ is scheduled to meet in New York this month, offering nearly 100 students, teachers and administrators an opportunity for international jazz cross pollination. “Jazz is a universal language,” Liebman said “Whenever I toured Europe, I’d see the growth of private and public schools that are teaching jazz. But there seemed to be a problem, too. Jazz musicians and educators from one country weren’t seeking out players from neighboring nations. There were, and still are, all these great ideas and players out there that weren’t getting over to a larger audience.” Liebman’s solution was to write various educational leaders and urge a meeting to discuss a possible network. That first meeting has developed into an annual week-long pilgrimage. Students are placed in small groups given some music to rehears, and told they will perform a concert by the end of the session. Teachers help them organize in the beginning, then step back and let the students work. “We treat it like a professional gig,” Liebman said. “They have to battle language barriers and, sometimes, skill-level differences to pull it together. It is amazing to see what they can do. When it’s all over, every student gets a contact sheet of attendees. It’s developed into a great network. We’ve had a number of musicians travel and play in other countries as a result of relationships that began here.” Liebman’s dream is to see one school from every nation in the world join IASJ, creating a true United Nations of jazz. “Can you imagine that?” he smiled. “I’d love to see 200 players from around the world playing ‘C Jam Blues.”


A Letter from Lieb

(Appeared in the Autumn 1999 issue of Jazz Changes Commemorating the IASJ 10th Anniversary)

When I looked around the table in April 1989 at the Yugoslavian restaurant in Rottenburg, West Germany and saw all the different  people from 12 countries sitting there I thought: ”What have I gotten myself into?”

Suddenly I felt a little intimidated and that maybe I had done the wrong thing. But Walter (Turkenburg) whom I had never met before and who had come there because he had heard about it from Alain Guerrini of the CIM School in Paris, said to me in effect; “I will visit you in the U.S. where we will put it together and have the first meeting at my school in the Hague.” We decided that if only five schools showed we would still have the First Annual Jazz Meeting. Needless to say the attendance in the Hague in July, 1990 was more than that. Since then we have had nine more meetings with plans for the next decade, launched one of the great journals of jazz and had innumerable contacts between cultures and people.

To say I am proud of our accomplishments would be an understatement. We have no funding, only the good graces of conservatories like those in London and the Hague, along with the cooperation of the many individuals it takes to put one of our Annual Meetings in the various cities from Ireland to Israel to the Baltic, where we have previously been. Anyone who has attended an IASJ Meeting knows about the special atmosphere created and the contacts that been engendered as a result.

And yet I still have unfinished dreams about what could be. As we approach the millennium as well as out tenth year, I want the readers of Jazz Changes to know what is and has been on my mind for the IASJ.

What I envision is a permanent home for the IASJ where not only administrative tasks would be carried out, but also classes, seminars, lectures, concerts and the like could take place on a regular schedule. I can see a programme of teaching that would range from instruction for young students, non professionals as well those interested in entering the field. With a rotating staff and guests, our IASJ Academy could be the meeting place for all nationalities and people interested in jazz. And of course, I hope that our membership will grow to include countries from Africa, Asia and South America as jazz continues to broaden its audience and appeal.

I don’t think that dream is unattainable. We have come so far up to now that I am confident that when we celebrate our 20th anniversary this scenario could be in place. My deepest appreciation to all the people who have been with me since the beginning and have made the IASJ such a success. I salute you all.

 Contact Information

Individuals as well as schools are welcome to join. Write to:

International Association of Schools of Jazz
Juliana van Stolberglaan I 2595 The Hague Holland
Telephone: 31-70-381-4251
Fax: 31-70-385-3941

Web Page: