Dear Howard, JJA, and to whom it may concern,
While being the Artist in Resident for the State of Kentucky over 20 years ago -- a National Endowment of the Arts experiment to put artists of all kinds in unlikely environments to see if there are any effects -- I was to live in Shelbyville, Kentucky, sent by executor of the program and master bassist Larry Ridley.
One day I asked a young bassist who arrived over two hours late to his high school, "What happened to you, Bill?" and he replied "Uncle Jack knocked me back!" I said, "Who?" and he said, "Jack Daniels," and then these words: "If you go to a party and can remember what happened, then you were not really there."
The 26th of June Jazz Award night is just a unique memory of beautiful moments for me.
Howard, I asked Barak our video expert to send to you a video tape and an audio tape of the musical prayer by all and me. Yakub, a saz (ancient middle east stringed instrument) player, one of my students and proprietor of a book store in Jerusalem on the subjects of mysticism, Sufism, Kabala, Zen, natural healing etc., is also a professional writer and will review the videos and write about the evening.
I can only say: I was surely there, but I don't remember. . .
I've been asked to describe the event from the mountain range that the Kabala was written and also over looks the sea of Galilee that my son Danny swam in two hours before the honoring.
My wife Liza said, "You have received many awards in your life, why is this one so special to you?" Manishtana, good question.
This is an award bestowed on me for my life's work (my 65th birthday is only days away, July 10). I did my very best.
This is the turning point in my life. Like Willie said, "To be or not . . ."
My Center, which was my ax to bring people together and hopefully elevate aspiring participants to their greatest potential and make them happy enough to make others happy. Like Dizzy said to me "The music is not a taking, it's a serving."
Living the Jazz life is a great advantage in so many ways.
My family arrived about 8 p.m. (event to start at 9 ) to a closed gate 3/4 up the mountain on a 1 car mountain path. Danny opened it and we -- Liza, Danny and Danny's lady Ilana -- arrived at the peak of the mountain top chalet to find it locked and a natural part of the wilderness. It occurred to me that we might be giving a prayerful musical offering to the wild pigs (boars) and snakes watching us quietly from their lush nests.
Thank God one of us had a cell phone that worked and we found out that young Naomi and her 6 ft 6 inch 17-year-old baby brother Ian would open for us in 15 minutes.
The Jazz Journalists miracle night in the tree that fell in the forest in this Holy Land wilderness.
Darkness fell and musicians started to arrive like magic and Barak our video mevin arrived, bussed from Jerusalem to Tel-Aviv and picked up by our main bassist, 21-year-old Tall Ronen (about a 4 hour journey).
The 17-year-olds Gil and Lev, of my new advanced class from Jerusalem -- a brilliant pianist and percussionist, respectfully -- took a bus from Jerusalem to Karmiel, a neighboring town, and a taxi to Hemdat Yamim.
I had enough to begin and the people started coming, inspired by an article in Hebrew in the Northern Israel newspaper Yediot and then came a phone call from Salman Natur, the man who was to present the award to me, a journalist and humanitarian renown throughout the Middle East. "Arnie," he said, "my wife Nadia is in the hospital, Rambam hospital in Haifa and I won't be able to attend -- I'm sorry." I said, "Salman, we will dedicate our opening prayer, our opening notes of thanks and our notes will have a prayer for Nadia inside them. I will ask the 21-year-olds who had been with me since the age of 14 -- bassist Tal Ronen and drummer Yoni Halevi -- to give me the award in your name.
I spoke to Salman the next day, June 27, and he said Nadia felt a little better but was still in hospital.
Howard, the evening was so joyous and special and Yoni said into a microphone looking at the award "to Arnie Lawrence for service to Jazz and belong." Not exactly the words that were inscribed on the award (Howard, may I get a new trophy inscribed with the words for service to Jazz and belong?)
The pride and joy of the special evening meant so much to me that I have asked Barak to get the video and the mini disk to you ASAP for you and your peers and public, to enjoy this great evening in my life. Liza took some still photos which I am sending to you.
My Center, after 5 years and change, might close very soon for lack of funds. My new idea is to alter the direction of the I.C. Creative Music Jerusalem to become a Preparatorium for all of the region, enabling youngsters to get into colleges world-wide with scholarships. I am sending you a letter from David Kriss Cultural attaché in Israel of the EURO suggesting in principle to create an exchange program between our Preparatorium and the colleges of Europe. I am hopeful that my friends in the IAJE will do the same for the remaining colleges in the world.
I intended to open Small's Middle East (having Mitch Borden's permission to use the name) to be part of this learning process and a place for the locals to see talent coming from New York and Europe and proudly watched the local participants grow into musical maturity. A little hotel in Baka with a small bar has volunteered to be the first site for this Small's, and will give us rooms for exchange students coming from far-away places.
I intend to continue in cooperation with Beit Hagefen in Haifa Israel's oldest Arab-Jewish Culture Center to develop Kashcool, a multicultural beautiful mish-mash and bouillabaisse of ouds, saxophones, darbukas, trumpets, guitars, keyboards, drums and doffs and even bagpipes. We already have a 1 o'clock kashcool, a 2 o'clock kashcool, and are working on 3 o'clock and on. Last week 1 o'clock kashcool played the end of the school term celebration at a major venue in Haifa to 400 six-year-olds of the Middle East rainbow. This gives me an idea to include a pre-Prepatorium for children of all ages.
Having learned a lot since I started the New School, I believe that our participants would elevate the colleges world-wide that would accept them. The musicians coming out of Israel that have been touched by the Center's blessings are seriously world-class and are ranking high in musical contests and situations like the Thelonious Monk Awards.
Let music ring and sing
and who's that swing?
your's truly will keep on, keepin' on
deepest thanks to you all,