To: Patrick Cook, Director of BMI Musical Theatre and Jazz, Charlie Feldman, VP, BMI Writer/Publisher Relations, New York, and Michael O'Neill, CEO, BMI
An Open Letter to BMI's Patrick Cook, Charlie Feldman, and Michael O'Neill
Victory! The creator of this petition declared the campaign a success. You can still sign the petition to show support.
We urge BMI's senior management to seriously consider the legacy and the uniqueness of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop as they plan for the workshop's future.
We also ask that Patrick Cook meet with the workshop composers and band members in person to explain his vision that does not include the professional big band that has been an integral part of the workshop since 1988.
Why is this important?
**June 11 good news: Please scroll to the bottom of this letter for an update.
It has come to our attention as current band members of the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra that there are core components of the current configuration of the workshop that are about to be dropped (namely, the professional jazz orchestra). Many of us have performed in the orchestra for over a decade; some have been here since the workshop's inception in 1988. Many of us are not only performers: we are composers who have participated as writers in the workshop. Furthermore, some of us are BMI-affiliated writers and publishers.
All of us are aware of the one-of-a-kind experience that the workshop affords us as a community-- most keenly, to the composers who are able to study big band writing free of charge with the most respected large ensemble composers writing today. Many of the workshop composers have gone on to receive significant awards and accolades and credit the workshop as a key part of their development. As band members, our monthly playing in and of itself provides a sounding board for composers to hear what works and what doesn't. Both the composers and the performers are vital parts of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop.
To be a longtime affiliate or supporter of a performing rights organization - one whose mission is to serve composers not only by collecting royalties but by providing opportunities for their musical development (and, in turn, providing performance opportunities for performers) - and to be a longtime member of the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra, where we provide services mostly free of charge for the entire year, is a commitment that all of us take extremely seriously.
To come to a final reading session and to not be met by BMI's director of jazz, or, frankly, anyone on senior management, and then to be told that the professional reading band will not be used after next month's concert, does not show any of us the same respect that we have faithfully given to BMI.
We ask that Patrick Cook meet with the current workshop composers and band members to discuss his vision that seems to disregard the vibrant community of jazz composers and performers that have, in conjunction with the legacy of artistic directors including Bob Brookmeyer, Manny Albam, Jim McNeely, and Mike Holober, made BMI attractive as a creative home for jazz musicians.
Finally, we realize that the dissolution of the jazz workshop as it has been known for the past 26 years does not merely affect us as current band members and composers; we realize that it affects those composers coming after us who are losing the opportunity to learn this idiom in this environment, and it affects the public who will have fewer opportunities to experience progressive big band music.
**June 11 update: Dear friends, on Thursday morning, I visited BMI's New York offices with one other representative from the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. We hand-delivered our petition- with over 1000 of your signatures- at a sit down meeting with Patrick Cook and Charlie Feldman.
I am happy to report that both Mr. Cook and Mr. Feldman made it clear that both the band members and the workshop composers will stay intact for the fall. There is no interest in disbanding the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra. Furthermore, the workshop's focus on big band writing will continue as such for at least the next two years.
We are also working to foster an ongoing relationship between the workshop/band members and BMI that has just begun in earnest with this first meeting. Thank you for helping us to get to this point.
Finally, if you are in the greater New York area, you are warmly invited to attend the 27th annual BMI Jazz Composers Workshop concert on Thurs, June 25 at 7:30 pm at Christ and St. Stephen's Church, 120 West 69th Street. Admission is free, and we are especially encouraging students and young musicians to attend.
Pianist, BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra
**June 1 update: Dear friends, I have an update from Charlie Feldman, VP of Writer/Publisher Relations in New York. I have just scheduled a meeting with Mr. Feldman for next Thursday, June 11.
Mr. Feldman has informed me via email that BMI wants to keep the focus of the jazz composers workshop as is: on jazz large ensemble writing. Furthermore, he wants to keep all of the current band members intact in the fall.
I would ask that those of you who have specific questions and concerns send them directly to me (a link to contact me is at the top of the page), so that I can bring them up at this in person meeting. Please also continue to share the petition so that we can show as much support as possible in advance of the in-person meeting on June 11.
Thank you for your ongoing support!
-Deanna Witkowski, Pianist, BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra