The Kennedy Center

Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead


Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Center identifies outstanding, emerging artists and brings them together under the tutelage of experienced artist-instructors who coach and counsel them, helping them to polish their performance, composing and arranging skills.The program was originally developed by Carter in 1993 at 651, an arts center in Brooklyn, and the first concert was presented at the BAM Majestic Theater. 

In 1997, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Dr. Billy Taylor, the Center's artistic advisor for Jazz, invited Carter to bring Jazz Ahead to Washington. On April 15, 1998, a delighted audience in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall heard the results of Carter's intense week of work with a group of 20 young jazz artists. Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead had a new home and Carter was filled with hope for the future of the program. After Carter’s death in September 1998, Dr. Billy Taylor and the Kennedy Center decided to continue her legacy by making the Jazz Ahead program, with the principles Carter laid down as the foundation, an annual event. 

Betty Carter founded Jazz Ahead as a vehicle to bring new life into jazz and teach the most promising fledgling artists what she knew. About her decision to create the program, Carter once remarked, "It is a concern of mine that jazz in its classical sense stands a chance of being placed in the background of the musical spectrum. Regardless of the fact that jazz is considered one of the first of America's true musical statements, it cannot survive simply on reputation alone. Creativity and explosive musical minds built this music with the sweat of what inspired them. It isn't the lack of explosive talent that burdens us. We need to create a wider pool for young talent to emerge, to be seen, and to be heard, in order to help them create viable careers of their own."
Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead