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Keeping Jazz Alive in DC – WJAI and Reeves CMC
17 May, 2021

Keeping Jazz Alive in DC – WJAI and Reeves CMC

For decades, the Washington Jazz Arts Institute has been teaching young students in the District – with instructional programs across a myriad of instruments. But that’s not all they teach. “We teach our students about the business of music too,” said co-founder Esther Williams. Graduates pursue careers in music, and a host of other disciplines. “The music keeps them focused,” she added.

The Washington Jazz Arts Institute (WJAI) was founded in 1998 by Davey Yarborough and his wife, Esther Williams, to further his dream of teaching music in a nurturing, mentoring atmosphere.

A natural outgrowth of Davey’s success at The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in DC, this dream was born of a desire to inspire young people.

Since 1977, Yarborough taught and eventually served as the Director of the Jazz Studies Program at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. Now retired from this role, he devotes himself to the WJAI full time. A highly regarded professional musician and composer, Davey seeks volunteers from among his vast network of musicians, educators and historians — with local and national reputations — to provide the services which support the activities of the Institute.

Thanks to volunteers, private donations and some grants, all the programs the Institute provides are free to students.

“Music programs are suffering,” says Yarborough. “My dream has always been to mentor anyone in DC – anyone who wants to be an artist.”
WJAI is partnering with the Reeves CMC team, which has as part of its design new state-of-the-art studio space.

“Our kids come from all over the metro area,” Williams said. “To have a place in the center of the city, a place to call our own, would mean so much for us and for our kids.”

Adds Yarborough, “Our musicians shouldn’t have to leave DC. My dream is to pass this on to the next generation.”

WJAI Mission:
Our mission and commitment is to the education, presentation and documentation of Jazz Music in and for the Washington, DC community. The Institute is devoted to the preservation of the past, the promotion of the present and preparation for the future of Jazz in DC.

Learn more about WJAI:

Learn more about the Reeves CMC proposal for the redevelopment of the Reeves Center:  
Our team is proud to have WJAI as a partner in our vision for the new Reeves Center. Our proposal includes a new studio space for the WJAI to continue its important work, offering free resources to young, aspiring musicians from all over the District of Columbia.