ABC7 STARS: Nonprofit leader helps generations create beautiful music

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- What do you think of when you think of Jazz music? Dimly lit, smoky nightclubs with middle-aged men in suits playing complicated melodies.

Well, a Bay Area woman has spent more than three decades Building a Better Bay Area by opening up the world of jazz to all age groups, especially the young. And by doing that bring the melody of their lives into harmony.

According to the Jazz Journalists Association, this year's Bay Area Jazz Hero is a woman who grew up on Long Island and doesn't even play an instrument. In fact, Stacey Hoffman didn't like jazz until she attended a summer arts camp in the early eighties.

"My experience there opened me to jazz, it opened me to gospel and the blues and R&B and a lot of music that I wasn't particularly listening to."

Others at the camp included singer Bobby McFerrin, the Bay Area's Tuck and Patti and steel drummer Andy Norell. But, the next year the camp folded. However, Hoffman wasn't ready to see it die.

"In 1984 I produced jazz camp west and it went on from there."

Nearly 36 years later, she's still producing jazz camps for kids of all ages-- from elementary school kids to people in their nineties. The organization is called Living Jazz. The goal is to make everyone's life better.

"Jazz is many things. There's beautiful melodies that's jazz, there's esoteric avant garde out music. There's the blues and gospel and R&B, hip-hop and funk and reggae. It goes on and on."

From a tiny office over the Piedmont Piano Store in Oakland, Stacey and a small staff organize the music camps they will hold this summer.

In mid-July 10 to 15-year-olds will go to Jam Camp-- where jazz is not emphasized initially, but gently stirred in til smooth-- like the start of a great recipe that will bake and become something rare and special.

Professional musicians take part. Tuition is charged and it includes lodging and meals among the redwoods in Loma Mar. But 20 to 25 percent of spaces are reserved for Oakland's disadvantaged young people. Because, she says it's more than just about music.

"It's something that speaks to the American journey. I speaks to the african-american person who came from a very suffering history and found music to represent their voice."

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