About Congressman John Conyers Jr.

2015 Donald Meade Legacy Jazz Griot Award Recipient John Conyers Jr.

About Congressman John Conyers Jr.

John Conyers Jr.

The Meade Legacy Society in conjunction with the African American Jazz Caucus confers the 4thAnnual Meade Legacy Jazz Griot Award to The Honorable Congressman John Conyers. A noted legislator and jazz arts supporter, Congressman Conyers personifies the essence of the jazz griot. Congressman Conyers is well known as a patron of the arts, and is renowned for his love of jazz. In his role as a federal legislator, he has successfully fought for greater recognition and funding for jazz.  

In 1985, under the leadership of Congressman John Conyers, Jr., the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) Jazz Issue Forum and Concert was established to enhance and perpetuate the art form, emphasize its cultural heritage, and drive awareness and pride within the African American community. Each year, the Forum explores a different aspect of the jazz experience in order to promote a better understanding of the diversity and vibrancy of this music as a dynamic cultural phenomenon within our society. Over the past 29 years, Congressman Conyers has covered such topics as mentoring, opportunities for new talent, jazz education, the economics of jazz, and the contributions of women in jazz. 

The Jazz Issue Forum and Concert has brought together an impressive array of talent, from song stylists to composers, from musicians to publishers, from broadcasters to educators, and historians and archivists. Among the notables who have previously participated are: Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Lionel Hampton, Abby Lincoln, Nancy Wilson, Dr. Donald Byrd, Barry Harris, Dr. Billy Taylor, Shirley Horn, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Gerald Wilson, Dr. David Baker, Gary Bartz, Hank and Elvin Jones, Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, Ron Carter and many more.

In 1987, the Congress passed Conyers’ House Concurrent Resolution 57 designating jazz a "national American treasure." 

On March 21, 2014, Conyers introduced new Legislation to Preserve Jazz as a National Treasure

Washington, DC— Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) has introduced H.R. 4280, the “National Jazz Preservation, Education and Promulgation Act of 2014.”  The Act will make needed investments that will allow for the preservation of artifacts that document our country’s jazz legacy and educate America’s youth about this national treasure. Specifically, the Act will establish a National Jazz Preservation Program at the Smithsonian and resurrect both the Jazz Artists in the Schools Program and the Ambassadors of Jazz Program. The cosponsors to the legislation included Rep. Lee, Rep. Hastings, Rep. Rangel, Rep. Cohen, Rep. Hastings, Rep. Slaughter and Rep. Chu. 

  • The Program would create oral and video histories of leading jazz artists, acquire, preserve and interpret artifacts, conduct exhibitions and other educational activities that would enable generations of Americans to learn about and enjoy jazz, and provide for performances by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra that interpret the history of jazz.

  • In addition, the legislation encourages the introduction of jazz to our youth by authorizing the US Department of Education to:
    • Create a Jazz Artists in the Schools Program, modeled on the successful one previously operated by the National Endowment for the Arts with a National Coordinator from 1978 through 1982 as a component of its Artists in Schools Program. 
    • Create a new Ambassadors of Jazz Program, modeled on the one launched by the US State Department back in 1956, and its more recent Ambassadors of Jazz Program operated by State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs from 1997 to 2006. Both of these programs sent noted American jazz musicians abroad to perform for international audiences. His bill authorized funding for young musicians and jazz ensembles from secondary schools to be sent abroad on missions of goodwill, education and cultural exchange to perform for diverse audiences. 


In His Own Words…

“In 1987 I introduced and the House of Representatives passed House Concurrent Resolution 57, which made a profound statement about the origin and cultural importance of jazz. The National Jazz Preservation, Education and Promulgation Act will build on this important resolution by reestablishing jazz programs aimed at elementary and secondary students and by preserving the many artifacts, documents, and photographs that tell the story of jazz in America. By preserving the past and creating a new generation of jazz fans, this legislation will ensure that this uniquely American musical genre lives on.”

During the 111th Congress, Mr. Conyers introduced House Resolution 894, honoring the 50th anniversary of the recording of the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue and reaffirming jazz as a national treasure. The House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 894 on December 15th, 2009. The vote showed a strong commitment on the part of Members of Congress to preserving and celebrating American music and culture.

In the 112thCongress, Congressman Conyers introduced H.R. 2823, the “National Jazz Preservation and Education Act of 2011.” The Act would have authorized needed investments towards the fulfillment of House Concurrent Resolution 57 by establishing jazz education programs aimed at elementary and secondary students and by preserving the many artifacts, documents, and photographs that tell the story of jazz in America.  In the second session of the 114th Congress he re-introduced the legislation as The Jazz Preservation, Education and Promulgation Act of 2014.

Congressman Conyers is the founder and host of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislation Conference Jazz Issue Forum and Concert. He also served on the board of directors for several music presenting and service organizations including Capital City Jazz Festivals, District Curators, the National Jazz Service Organization and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.


Congressman Conyers accepts the Griot Award

Congressman John Conyers Jr. accepts the 2015 Donald Meade Jazz Griot Award.