V-JAM Philly Session Leader: Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts

“What if there was one activity that could benefit every student in every school across the nation? An activity that could improve grades and scores on standardized testing? An activity that would allow students to form lasting friendships? An activity that would help students become more disciplined and confident?” asks Lovett Hines, Artistic Director for the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts.

Fortunately, he says, there is such an activity. “This activity is something that everyone is aware of, but not everyone has a chance to participate in. At the Philadelphia Clef Club, we believe this activity is music,” Hines explains. “We are creators, improvisers, innovators. We can’t control the nature of the covonavirus, but we respond to it with imagination and determination.”

Even though the Clef Club made the difficult decision to postpone concerts and the Music Education Program for the safety of students, faculty, staff, and patrons, they are in the process of transitioning all ensemble instruction online. Using an interactive online learning tool in partnership with Berklee College of Music, Berklee City Music Network, and dedicated faculty, the Clef Club will be able to bring students together with their peers and faculty each week on Saturdays.

Pre-Covid-19, the Clef Club celebrated the legacy of jazz through accessible education for the Greater Philadelphia region, and supported the evolving art form through talent development, programming, and public performances. The club served more than 1,200 students through in-school programs and out-of-school activities.

The Clef Club was founded in 1935 by James Adams and members of Local No. 274, Philadelphia’s Black Musicians Union, to be the Local’s social club. It was not unusual to see Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Art Blakely, Dinah Washington, Max Roach and others in the hallways of the club. The Clef Club continued to function as a social club until 1978, when it expanded its activities to include jazz performance, jazz instruction, and the jazz history preservation. In 1982, a new facility was constructed at 738 South Broad Street as part of the development of the Avenue of the Arts. In 1995, the club established a new facility on the corner of Broad and Fitzwater Streets that houses classrooms, a performance space, recording facilities, and executive offices.

Hines says the Clef Club is looking forward to presenting both renowned and emerging artists on a monthly basis year-round. “Just like this music, Hines says, “it swings harder when played together, and it is together—as a community—that we will get through this very challenging time.”