NEA Jazz Masters Ceremony Moves Online To Honor Kirk, McFerrin, Mitchell, Workman


Dorthaan Kirk, who retired from WBGO in 2018, is among the 2020 NEA Jazz Masters.

(Photo: David Tallacksen/WBGO)

A ceremony to honor the 2020 NEA Jazz Masters is set to take place online at 8 p.m. Aug. 20. The event will be MC’d by vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, a 2017 recipient of the award.

The pivot online comes after the coronavirus pandemic disallowed events planned for April at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, where curator/producer Dorthaan Kirk, singer Bobby McFerrin, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and bassist Reggie Workman were to be recognized for their contributions to the music.

“While we were disappointed to have to postpone last April’s events, this virtual concert will be an opportunity to bring together jazz fans around the world in celebration of the 2020 NEA Jazz Masters,” Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, said in a press release. “We appreciate the creativity and dedication of all involved, from the staff at SFJAZZ to the many musicians who are performing in honor of the recipients, so that we can continue our agency’s long tradition of honoring great individuals in jazz.”

The award—established in 1982—has been given to 157 figures associated with jazz who are nominated by the public, considered by a panel of judges and then reviewed by the National Council on the Arts. A recommendation is made to the organization’s chairperson, who then makes a final decision on the awardees.

The streamed event—which can be viewed on and—is set to include remote performances by Terri Lyne Carrington (music director for the proceedings), Ambrose Akinmusire, James Carter, Gerald Clayton, Oliver Lake, Madison McFerrin, Junius Paul, Steve Turre, the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars and others.

Following the initial broadcast, a video of the event will be available at DB

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