Mason Jazz Students Play to Bridge the Justice Gap in Northern Virginia

Jazz4Justice performance

Mason Jazz students in a recording session for this year's Jazz4Justice™.

One of the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ core beliefs is that students should be civically engaged and become social do-gooders in their communities. Our faculty prioritizes this duty through their curriculum development and instruction, and our staff makes every effort to support faculty- and student-led initiatives that promote advocacy, activism, and community service through the arts. A prime example is Jazz 4 Justice™, a concert-fundraiser that is presented through a partnership between George Mason University’s Reva and Sid Dewberry Family School of Music and Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV).

However, it is much more than a concert.

The collaboration’s primary mission is to raise funds that underwrite civil legal assistance for underprivileged community members and those facing financial hardships. This year’s Jazz4Justice™ is especially vital, as many of our neighbors throughout Northern Virginia are struggling with the unexpected effects of the pandemic on their health and livelihoods.

“LSNV’s free legal help is particularly crucial this year because the pandemic has forced so many Northern Virginians to face eviction, unemployment, lack of adequate health insurance, and more,” affirmed Marcy Kossar, Director of Development for LSNV.

The Legal Services Corporation estimates that 86% of low-income Americans who have civil legal problems receive inadequate or no legal help, and 71% of low-income households experienced at least one civil or legal problem in the last year (source: 2017 Justice Gap Report). This discrepancy between legal representation for civil cases and the need for legal services for low-income individuals is known as the “Justice Gap.” Jazz4Justice™ brings awareness to the Justice Gap, while providing monetary support through concerts and sponsorships.

For 19 years, Mason students have participated in Jazz4Justice™ and lent their talents to a greater cause. Our young jazz artists are acutely aware of the needs from those around them who are less fortunate, and it brings them a sense of purpose to be a part of the solution.

Tomas Jackson, a Spring 2020 graduate of the Mason Jazz program shared, “I performed at Jazz4Justice™ six times and attended twice prior to that. Each concert was wonderful, but the underlying reasons for the performance were so much more rewarding. Giving back to the community through musical performance is a great opportunity to share the joy and history of jazz.”

Music Major Domenic Lewis (’21) also commented, “I especially appreciate the steps taken to involve the participating students in almost every facet. It really helps me feel like I am ‘right in the middle of things,’ helping out and giving back, which is especially relevant in our social and political climate.”

The 2020 Jazz4Justice™ will look different due to the ongoing pandemic, but its support of a worthwhile cause remains steady. Those interested can join the virtual concert on November 20, 2020 at 8 p.m. ET, which will be streamed to the Center for the Arts’ website, YouTube, and Facebook. Viewers should expect appearances by Mason Jazz students and faculty, as well as by attorneys, judges, and members of the Northern Virginia community.