Mario Guarneri, Founder

Why it matters

When people ask me why Jazz in the Neighborhood is important, I think of an experience I was lucky enough to have when I was 13 years old. My first teacher, Eddie Smith, used his connections in the jazz world so that I could play with Louis Armstrong and his band in concert. It was life changing for me.

There’s nothing like improvising music with seasoned players in front of an audience to help develop excellence. Learning on the bandstand is not just a great jazz tradition; it’s a vital part of passing on the heritage. Jazz in the Neighborhood creates opportunities for gifted musicians to learn and be inspired by some of the best.

There’s another big reason why this project is significant. Throughout my career, performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and on soundtracks for TV, and Hollywood films, I’ve been a member of the Musicians Union. I’ve always been guaranteed fair wages and working conditions. Yet I knew many jazz players who struggled for the security and fair wage afforded by those who worked union gigs. JitN is working to change those conditions in part by working with the Musicians Union.

The Bay Area is home to many incredible jazz musicians. They’ve devoted their lives to developing their craft and attaining the highest artistic levels. These performers have so much to offer aspiring players—and audiences. Jazz in the Neighborhood creates an environment where these professionals can nurture a great American art form with dignity and respect.