Even as a youngster swinging to Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb at Harlem's historic Savoy dance hall, Lucy White was convinced that jazz is integral to the history of her people. "Jazz is the one true American art form," says the Detroit native. "We must preserve it."
So when she moved to Sarasota in 1984, the former nurse and school administrator pushed hard to bring jazz into schools. With the help of Sarasota's Jazz Club, she scraped together enough grants (and copyright permissions) to start Jazz Links, an educational program that teaches black history through the roots of jazz music. Today the program is in all 50 of the county's elementary schools and has been lauded in The Wall Street Journal.
Not even the mild stroke she experienced last August can quell White's enthusiasm. At 87, she's seeking sponsors to take the program to other schools and states. "Every child should know [about jazz]," she insists. "If we don't do something now, jazz as we know it will fade away."