One of WSAF’s first touring programs launched in 1978 with two jazz groups performing half-week residencies in 10 communities regionwide. NEA funds supported the five-week pilot project, which featured Jimmy Owens . . . Plus and the Northwest Jazz Sextet, to test the financial and artistic feasibility of jazz touring. The residencies included workshops, clinics, and master classes, as well as one public performance.

Finding appropriate venues and garnering local support were key elements for success, and college towns and other locales with strong community-based organizations –– like a local arts council, a symphony or theater company –– filled the bill.

 The Jazz Touring Program proved very appealing and remained one of WESTAF’s most popular projects, garnering major funding in the mid-1990s from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest National Jazz Network. That support generated jazz fellowships and helped fund WESTAF’s Jazz West newsletter beginning in 1992. The Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest National Jazz Network itself grew out of a cooperative arrangement between the New England Foundation for the Arts and WESTAF, designed to boost the visibility of jazz artists in the WESTAF region.

In 1993, the “big hit of the year” was WESTAF’s Jazz Set West, a three-episode television series featuring jazz artists living in the West produced by Paul Marshall. San Diego public television station KPBS taped the series before a live studio audience, featuring performances, by the Clayton Brothers, pianist Gene Harris’s quartet, and the flutist James Newton’s Quartet, was released to 125 TV stations nationwide in 1993.

Jazz Set West – Gene Harris Quartet

Jazz Set West – James Newton Quartet