By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Today The Pennsylvania Humanities Council is honoring a Philadelphia non-profit that helps jazz musicians and vocalists in times of crisis.
Over the past 10 years, Jazz Bridge Project has helped nearly 200 musicians in their time of need.
“Anyone who makes the choice to be in the arts, really has very little support system,” says Suzanne Cloud, co-founder and jazz vocalist.
She says many jazz musicians live without pensions, 401Ks or even health insurance, so when they need a major medical procedure, legal help or other assistance, there is no safety net.
That’s when Jazz Bridge steps up.
“Each problem is unique and can run from I can’t pay my heating bill during the winter to I fell down and broke my teeth and need dental work,” Cloud said.
Jazz Bridge Project holds jam sessions and other fundraisers for jazz musicians, providing a “bridge” by using its 501(c)(3) status to make donations tax deductible.
This means larger and more substantial contributions to help those in need.
“The traditional jazz way of helping our own is a big jam session,” says Cloud, “but at the end of the day, you usually only raise about $3,000. If you have a serious problem, this is just inadequate.”
Longtime drummer Charlie Rice, 93, says Jazz Bridge helped pay for his lawyer when New Jersey accused him of stealing gas when he worked for Camden schools.
Rice was in his 80s at the time and faced five years in jail.
“If it hadn’t been for Jazz Bridge, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” says Rice, who was able to get backpay and access to his school pension.
Rice says he worked for the schools as a carpenter.
He played the drums in his free time.
“I didn’t know anything about getting lawyers, I had never been in trouble like that,” he says, “I was so happy when my lawyer called me and said, ‘Charlie, we beat ’em.”
Jazz Briddge will receive the Humanities Partner Award. This year’s other honorees include Pennsylvania first lady Susan Corbett. Pennsylvania Humanities Awards honors individuals and organizations, which champion the humanities.
The ceremony and reception takes place today at 5pm in the Pennsylvania Statehouse Main Rotunda.