Jazz Power Initiative honors Lin-Manuel Miranda’s family while celebrating 20 years of promoting music education

Photo courtesy of Andre Moore

The Jazz Power Initiative, a nonprofit organization that provides music education at low or no cost to music lovers, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with some serious star power.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, actor/composer of “Hamilton,” was on hand as the Miranda family was awarded with the initiative’s Philanthropy Award, recognizing their contributions to promoting the fine arts through the years.

“I come not just as a musician, but as a product of the privilege of a wonderful public-school arts education, which underscores the importance of what Jazz Power does,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

Founders Clifford Carlson, writer and educator and Dr. Eli Yamin, jazz musician and educator launched the Jazz Power Initiative with a focus on transforming the lives of young people from Upper Manhattan, Washington Heights and the Bronx. 

It all began with a grant from Meet the Composer/New Music for Schools and funding from the Louis Armstrong Education Foundation, which was awarded to Yamin. In 2003, the organization incorporated The Jazz Drama Program and in 2004 it became a nonprofit organization.  It wasn’t until 2017 that it became Jazz Power Initiative and a permanent program in schools and the communities of Northern Manhattan. 

For more than two decades, the organization has fostered community and love for the performing arts in both young and older generations. 

At this year’s reception, the organization honored the Miranda family and two other supporters who have greatly contributed to achieve their mission of serving thousands of New Yorkers in Northern Manhattan. 

The first honoree was Tanya LeMelle, an executive TD Bank and a Jazz Power Initiative board member. TD Bank received the Corporate Social Responsibility award.

Phiel Bertelsen, filmmaker, Peabody and Emmy-award winning received the Changemaker Award.

“Change is not something that comes easy and it’s not something we do alone,” said Bertelsen.

Over the years, thousands of young people, educators and audiences have been positively affected by the organization. 

“What I think is satisfying…what makes it worthwhile is that you feel that you can have an effect and perhaps do some good for other people,” said Eli. 

The event raised more than $200,000 in donations, surprassing the expected goal for the night.