New Documentary Shines a Light on the Legendary Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts Educator Lovett Hines talks about survival and what’s next

by Jazz Philadelphia | photo courtesy of scribe.org

Precious places exist all around Philadelphia, and tonight, one of the city’s most important jazz clubs will be celebrated in a Scribe Video center documentary, which is free for the public to see when it premieres at 7 p.m. tonight. 

The Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts sits on Broad Street not far from Philadelphia’s City Hall on the Avenue of the Arts. Before the pandemic, walking into the center meant bumping into musicians on their way out of rehearsal studies, seeing programmers and staff readying the building for the night’s performance, and students learning to play the jazz music that has such a rich and storied history in Philadelphia. 

You’d also likely find Artistic Director/Founder of the Music Education Program Lovett Hines. Hines, a soft-spoken and much-loved presence at the center, exudes clear joy when he talks about his students. Hines says that “Developing and mentoring young musicians and helping them to find their creative voice,” is far and away the most important aspect of the club to him. For him, it’s personal. 

The realities fo Covid have quieted down the club, but not its activities. “Covid-19 has forced PCC to continue its programming by exploring various virtual formats,” Hines said, and adds that they are continuously working on “the ability to find alternate means to sustain existing and new programs.”

In 1935, James Adams and members of Local No. 274, Philadelphia’s African American Musician’s Union, founded the club. According to Scribe Video Center, who helped produce the documentary, it was a seminal moment. “At a time when the city’s African American musicians struggled for political, economic and cultural recognition, Local No. 274 gave them representation and broke a tradition of segregation.” 

Hines says that one of the difficulties of producing the video was, “Trying to tell a comprehensive story within the time limits.” But filmmakers were able to get 86 years of history into a tight eight minutes. 

Since it will likely leave you wanting more, just be patient. “There are plans to produce a more comprehensive documentary telling our story,” says Hines. 

Hines says he believes the documentary will help the club by, “Reaching a broader audience, which includes musicians, jazz fans, and students,” and that the club is looking to the future. When asked what hope and opportunities there were on the horizon, Hines has a lot to look forward to. “The development of new partners, which includes alumni, a National Musicians Advisory Board, developing a sustainable donor base, and developing the Clef Club archive,” are all on the table, he says.

Don’t miss the premiere tonight at 7 p.m. to learn more about why the club is such a key aspect of Philadelphia jazz history and of its future.

More Info

The documentary will premiere on January 21, 2020, and it’s free to register to see the film  on the club as well as other storied places around the city. From Scribe Video Center:

This year’s films document: The Germantown Potter’s Field by Afrocentricity International, The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts located in South Central Philadelphia, Pier 53 on the Delaware River by Friends of Washington Avenue Green in South Philadelphia, James Shuler Boxing Gym in West Philadelphia, Northlight Community Center in Roxborough-Manayunk, Dahlak Paradise by the Selam Committee in West Philadelphia, Stephen Smith Tower Apartments in Belmont, and the Freedom Theatre by the Disappearing Heritage Historic Group in North Philadelphia.

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