For the last 23 years, Hans Schuman B.M. ’90 has been at the helm of his New York City–based nonprofit organization JazzReach, crisscrossing the nation with passion and tenacity to introduce hundreds of thousands of young people to jazz music. He’s just wrapped the organization’s 2016–2017 season of educational programming and is preparing to embark on an ambitious, summer-long capacity-building campaign that aims to take the organization into the next exciting phase of its history and mission.
What is JazzReach, and what do you do?
I established the organization in 1994 out of a small home office in Brooklyn with proceeds from the reluctant sale of an inherited Steinway grand piano (my grandmother’s). Our mission is to ensure that young people nationwide have access to engaging, high-quality opportunities that illuminate the vitality of the live jazz experience and promote the art form’s rich history and prominent place in American and world culture. At the core of our mission is a touring repertoire of numerous live educational productions for young audiences (grades four–12) that integrate live music provided by our resident ensemble, Metta Quintet, with live narration and video projections. Those programs are supplemented by clinics, master classes, lecture demonstrations, and MainStage concerts. Programs are presented in partnership with distinguished performing arts presenters nationwide and typically impact over 35,000 students in more than 25 U.S. communities annually.
What attracted you to Berklee, and how did it impact your career?
I first heard about Berklee at a drum clinic from alumnus Steve Smith ’76 that I attended in Scottsdale, Arizona, when I was in eighth grade. I’d just started taking drum lessons at a place called the Creative Drum Shop, and the owner was friendly with Steve, so he’d come out and do clinics when he wasn’t on the road with Journey. Steve’s command of the instrument and consummate musicianship made such a profound impression on me. On mentioning that he’d gone to Berklee (and stressing the importance and value of a well-rounded music education), I decided right there and then that Berklee was the school for me.
I enrolled in Berklee in the fall of 1986 and essentially just thrust myself into the deep end and started swimming. Berklee can be really overwhelming at first, just so many students playing on such a high level, so I think it’s critical to know why you’re there and what you want out of the experience. I was more inspired by my peers than I was intimidated. So many of my classmates have gone on to achieve such great things in their careers, and they continue to inspire me to this day., folks like Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Geoff Keezer, Lalah Hathaway, Jorge Rossy, Seamus Blake, Chris Cheek, Jeff Parker, Antonio Hart, Mark Gross, Dwayne Burno, Ingrid Jensen, Roy Hargrove, Kenny Rampton, Victor Atkins, and so many others. Suffice it to say, it was a good time to be at Berklee.
What are some of your proudest achievements with JazzReach?
When I graduated from Berklee, I just wanted to play and had no plans to establish a nonprofit organization. I knew nothing about the business model or arts administration. That said, I’m particularly proud of the fact that I’ve somehow managed to steer and sustain the organization successfully for over two decades while having the privilege of working and touring with some of the best jazz musicians in the world. But what I’m proudest of is that our programs have introduced jazz music to over a half-million students in more than 90 U.S. communities, and that we’ve cultivated a dedicated base of supporters and collaborative partnerships with some of our nation’s most esteemed performing arts presenters, who’ve helped tremendously to make it all possible.
What’s next for the organization?
Well, after 23 successful years, we’ve reached our full organizational capacity under our current operating structure. So in order to continue growing, thriving, and flourishing, it’s imperative that we expand our organizational bandwidth. That said, we’re implementing a critical online capacity-building campaign over the summer that will aim to raise the funds necessary to add staff, expand our donor base, elevate our organizational profile, develop new programs, bolster touring and artistic programming, and, most importantly, serve more young people and deepen our overall organizational impact. Those interested in supporting us can do so at jazzreach.org.
Do you have any advice for young alumni looking to carve a similar path?
Be serious, dedicated, passionate, and tenacious. Seek the advice of intelligent people. Surround yourself with people who are where you want to be. Accept the fact that it will be difficult, you will misstep, and you will likely experience a lot of rejection. Be emboldened by setbacks, and learn from your mistakes. Love what you do (even when it gets rough). Maintain strong ties with Berklee: we’re family.