Sunday, March 6, 2011

Open letter on NPR funding

Hi everyone, I just wrote this letter concerning Congress's ridiculous idea on eliminating funding to National Public Radio. If you feel strongly (or even a little bit) about preserving the idea of freedom of artistic expression in America, I encourage you to get in touch with your Congressperson and let them know. The only way for your Congress to work FOR you is to let them know what YOU want.


In the United States, public radio is one of the most important outlets for all fine arts to have a voice and be heard. All types of jazz, Americaʼs fine arts gift to the world, can be heard on public radio, from the most traditional to the most searching. This freedom of expression (in music, dance, theater, painting, and numerous other arts) in vital to the health of any country or culture, especially in America today.

This is why Iʼm so concerned about the efforts in the U.S. Congress to eliminate ALL federal funding for public broadcasting. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the legislation, and the U.S. Senate will be considering this issue soon. Given the fervor to cut the deficit in any way possible, there is a possibility that, here, in one of the richest nations in the world, the government will vote to financially stop supporting an outlet that exposes hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans to what is new and innovative in the worldʼs creative and fine arts. It is of course important to save money, but not at the expense of a service that generates $6 in local support for every $1 provided by the federal government. This 6 to 1 ratio, would, in business terms, be an unquestioningly large return, and we should look at it as such, not just monetarily, but culturally as well.

Fortunately, there is something we all can do to help out. At you can learn more and send a message to Congress letting our federal representatives know that this is a really bad idea. Our Congressmen and -women need to hear from their constituents to know how to represent us better, and this is a good place to start!

From national programmers like NPR to local stations like WDIY in LeHigh, PA, KENW in Portales, NM, and everywhere in between, public radio stations have allowed me to get my music out to others who might not be able to come hear me in concert or afford to buy my CDs. Through the numerous reviews, interviews, or song spins Iʼve received on the radio, Iʼve been able to get my view on the world out there. In fact, my latest record “Foxy” (which is a non-stop 80 minute post-bop jazz offering that features a living legend in percussionist Barry Altschul) was played non-stop recently on Blue Lake Public Radio in Michigan. Youʼre not going to hear something like this, or most other really personal forms of expression, on mainstream, commercial radio.

Americans SHOULD have options when it comes to what they want to watch or listen to, and keeping public radio as an option, the American people are richer with choices.

Iʼve been humbled and honored to play with great artists from all over America and the world, including Wynton Marsalis, Billy Joel, Joey DeFrancesco, Herbie Hancock, Michael Buble, Kenny Wheeler, Lou Reed, Conor Oberst, Nicholas Payton, Kenny Barron, and Wayne Shorter; without public radio, the inspiring work of these musicians-- and many more-- would not be heard. Public radio stations are THE source on the free airwaves for high-quality jazz programming in our country. If you care about jazz in the United States, this is the time to speak out.


Jon Irabagon