PHOTO:  Usdan 2010 Gala Concert — Leandra McNair and the Usdan Jazz Ensemble performing onstage.  Photo by Pedro Sousa


Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts (, the renowned not-for-profit summer arts day camp whose Jazz Department was founded in 1986 by legendary jazz artist/educator Dr. Billy Taylor, announces a two-year initiative grant provided by the Rauch Foundation’s Founders’ Memorial Program, for a new program titled Sustaining American Jazz: Inspiring Young Artists and Audiences. Intended to stimulate jazz pedagogy and performance by young students, the program will include scholarships each year to promising high school students for summer jazz study at the Center, commissions for new works by leading composers, collaborations with Long Island high school jazz ensembles for additional performances of the new pieces, and concerts and master classes at the Center by prominent artists (past performances and master class teachers have included Jimmy Heath, Arturo O’Farrill, John Faddis, and Marion McPartland).

Usdan Center Executive Director Dale Lewis says, “Our Usdan community is honored to have been selected to develop this important jazz program, one designed to bring the riches of this authentic American art form to its widest possible audience. Jazz, called by Dr. Taylor “America’s classical music,” is an indigenous genre that has long been “Made in America,” yet many young people are largely unfamiliar with its riches. The newly commissioned pieces will be accessible for young audiences. It is our hope that the second and third performances of this music, to be presented by Long Island high school jazz ensembles, will engage young performers in the joy of presenting a premiere. We will also include performances for younger students, in order to widen the audience for jazz performance, and for composers of jazz.”

The composers chosen to write the new works, which will premiere at the August 3 Usdan Gala Concert, are: for 2011, Richard DeRosa whose jazz arrangements have been performed by Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Gerry Mullian, Glenn Miller Big Bands and singer Susannah McCorkle. His original works have been played by orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. As a pianist and drummer, he has performed with Marian McPartland, Gerry Mulligan, Jackie Cain and Roy Kral and many other prominent artists, and in addition, he is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and The University of North Texas. For 2012, the composer of Usdan’s new work will be composer/pianist Ted Rosenthal, called “A new jazz leader” by the New York Times. Rosenthal’s compositions have been played by artists such as Ron Carter, and his newest work is shortly to premiere with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony in Manhattan. In 2008, Usdan Center presented the instrumental premiere of his jazz quintet SwingFlight, originally written to accompany the Nilas Martins Dance Company. A First Prize-winner of the Thelonius Monk Competition, Rosenthal has toured with Art Farmer, Jon Faddis, Gerry Mulligan and other major artists, and also teaches at Juilliard.

Usdan Center, whose alumni include jazz singer Jane Monheit, has introduced the arts to more than 50,000 Tri-State Area children since its founding in 1968. The Center is open to all young people from age 6 to 18. Usdan’s program features more than 40 seven-week programs in music, dance, theater, visual arts, writing, nature & ecology, and chess. No audition is needed for most programs – rather, admission is based on an expression of interest in the arts. Each summer, 1,500 students are transported to the Center in air-conditioned buses each day. One-third of Usdan’s students attend on scholarship. Although the mission of the Center is for every child to establish a relationship with the arts, the unique stimulation of the Center has caused many to go on to arts careers. Alumni include members of Broadway shows and major music, theater, and dance ensembles such as the Boston Pops and the New York City Ballet.

In addition to its regular programs, Usdan offers special opportunities for advanced high school-age performing and visual artists. These include Music Staff Internships, a Summer Ballet Intensive, and a program of immersion in the visual arts and college preparation for selected high school students. It is called the Usdan Center Visual Arts Portfolio Preparation Track.  Usdan Center is an agency of the UJA-Federation of New York.

For more information, write to, Call (212) 772-6060 or (631) 643-7900, or visit