In 1971, Bubbha Thomas, the Executive Director of Jazz Education, Inc. sought to have the month of August designated as Jazz Month in the City of Houston. With that idea came a proclamation in support of that effort. Bubbha's vision, led to an increased focus on programs relating to educational opportunities for students interesting in pursuing jazz as educators or professional musicians. Since those early days, jazz education has become a major focal point on a national and international level. Houston is a city with one of the finest jazz programs in the United States. Jazz Education, Inc.'s Summer Jazz Workshop and their Jazz & Poetry Program are just two of those educational opportunities stemming from Bubbha's efforts.
Bubbha's idea to focus on jazz education has had distinct implications. His programs have produced some of the finest professional educators and musicians in the United States. Some of these individuals have also gone on to work on the global jazz scene as well. In addition, The Houston International Jazz Festival is also a product of Jazz Education's initiatives. Jazz Month has not only increased educational opportunities for the pursuit of jazz, it has also increased awareness of the genre as "America's only original art form." During August, numerous sponsors and volunteers come together in support of the work shop and festival.
August 1-3, 2003 marks the 13th anniversary of the Houston International Jazz Festival. The event is the culmination of a six-week summer jazz workshop, where students study the fundamentals of jazz in a classroom setting. At the end of the program, students have the opportunity to perform in the festival with professional musicians. Another important aspect of the event is the focus on international jazz talent. In the past, musicians from Africa, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and other countries have all performed in the festival at one time or the other. This year's event features Latin jazz with Maraca, La India, The Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Norma Zenteno. Other featured artists include Roy Ayers, David Benoit, Regina Carter, Special EFX, Bubbha Thomas and the Summer Jazz Workshop All-Stars. Overall, everything associated with the festival and workshop is proof positive that the programs established by Bubbha Thomas over 30 years ago have had a positive impact. Since 1971, over 8,000 students have participated in the Summer Jazz Workshop. It has produced professional educators, musicians and individuals from all walks of life. There is another aspect of the month with even greater significance.
August 4, 2003 marks the 102nd birthday of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. Born August 4, 1901, he more than any other musician in history changed the music we call jazz. His contributions to the genre are incredible. As an ambassador of goodwill, he carried the gospel according to jazz to practically every corner of the globe. In retrospect, it seems most appropriate that back in 1971, Bubbha Thomas proclaimed the month of August as Jazz Month. Incidentally, it is the same month Armstrong passed away. Jazz in all of its wonderful flavors is a by-product of everything American and is celebrated every year during the month of August in the City of Houston.