In 2002, with the support of the Estate of Leroy Vinnegar and the jazz and arts community, Darrell established the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute (LVJI) at Portland State University.
Named for Leroy Vinnegar, the “Master of the Walking Bass," who after a legendary career called Portland, Oregon home for the several years, LVJI carries on the legacy of this seminal figure in the history of jazz, who was also a mentor, educator, and unflagging contributor to the musical life of his adopted community. The institute celebrates jazz origins as an American art form that embodies the most noble aspirations of our national character. Embracing individuality, honoring diversity, and celebrating community, jazz music has consistently demonstrated its power to bridge cultures and reach across barriers. As a music that reflects the energy and creativity that are the core of the human spirit, it continues to inspire and change lives.
The mission of LVJI is to preserve and promote the art form, cultural heritage, and social history of jazz music in the Northwest through education, outreach, and historical documentation. LVJI’s programs and partnerships will help to fill the void in arts education left by budget cuts in public school funding; provide opportunities for gifted young people to interact with world-class artists; encourage participation in the music making process at the community and individual levels, and increase the understanding and appreciation of our shared cultural heritage.
LVJI reflects Darrell’s goal of developed outreach and education initiatives which promote study, appreciation, and participation in jazz for young people, the building of partnerships with community and educational organizations, and use of jazz as a positive force for community building through programs which cultivate appreciation for diverse cultures. Education programs like “The Incredible Journey of Jazz” which tells the story of jazz from its roots in African music & culture, through its development in the US, to its current role as one of America's most treasured contributions to world culture, has been seen by over 7,000 middle school students in Oregon and Washington, and been featured on cable TV. The “Maiden Voyage Project,” an initiative that provides access to world-class jazz to school-age children provided 100 free tickets for middle and high school students to attend jazz concerts.
LVJI highlights Darrell’s belief in the power of collaboration. In partnership with numerous organizations, LVJI has developed outreach programs that promote jazz music as an art form that crosses the boundaries of age, race, sex, ethnic background, and nationality. In 2004 the Institute successfully advocated for state and citywide proclamations of Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Week by offices of the Governor and Mayor and established a week long festival of performances and workshops celebrating the legacy of Leroy Vinnegar. That same year the Institute partnered with the Portland Jazz Festival and Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission to present “I See You Now,” a two day program of concerts, workshops, and lectures in tribute to Native American musician Jim Pepper. The Institute developed and presented programming for “Jazz Storytimes” presentations in words and music for children and families presented in partnership with Multnomah County libraries.
For Darrell, LVJI provides a platform for innovation. The Institute received a grant from the Regional Arts and Cultural Council (RACC) to present the “New Griot Project,”a youth outreach initiative that drew on musical and cultural connections of jazz and hip-hop that included ten days of after school workshops and community concerts. The Institute's annual “Young Artist Jazz Concert” provides a professional showcase for Oregon’s brightest emerging jazz artists. LVJI has presented performances and workshops featuring regional and national jazz artists like Dave Holland, Chuck Israels, Glen Moore, David Friesen, Ben Wolfe, Essiet Okon Essiet and Marcus Shelby.
LVJI also reflects Darrell's desire to “honor those who have gone before,” by documenting the historic jazz culture of the Northwest region and paying tribute to those who have contributed to its jazz tradition. In 2005 the organization curated the “A Great Day in Portland,” project which created an historic photograph documenting Portland’s jazz legacy and featured over 150 Portland jazz musicians. With support from the Oregon Council for the Humanities, LVJI established the “Northwest Jazz Oral Histories Project” to document the voices of Portland’s jazz history. The Institute recently completed the collection and transcription of eleven oral histories, totaling almost thirty hours and 400 transcribed pages.
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