Alumni of the Month  |  2014-04
April 9, 2014

All That Jazz

In Estonia, Anne Erm is fondly known as the Grand Lady of Jazz and the Mother of Estonian Jazz. Anne earned these effusive accolades as she transformed the music industry in her country through an international jazz festival called Jazzkaar. After participating in a 1994 International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on Arts Management, she returned to Estonia with a wealth of ideas and contacts in the American jazz sphere. Of her exchange, Anne says: “My first ever trip to the U.S. under this State Department program served as a proof that I have taken the right path in life. In 2012, Chick Corea wrote into my guest book: ‘Music can be an expression of a being’s creative freedom. I like it that way.’ I like it as much as he does, and freedom keeps people at peace.”

A composer and journalist, Anne has worked as a music programs producer at National Radio Broadcasting since the 1970s, and has contributed to radio music programs since the late 1960s. Many generations of Estonians recognize her voice and appreciate her efforts to educate local audiences about jazz. She is also the Artistic Director of the international Jaazkar festival. Anne’s tireless efforts got April designated as Jazz Month in Estonia before it was named Jazz Appreciation Month in the United States. Prior to her exchange in the U.S., Anne’s small group of friends and jazz aficionados helped organize concerts and small-scale events. Through the IVLP exchange, she learned management skills and gained the courage to pursue much larger venues for jazz festivals. Upon her return, with the help of 100 volunteers, she turned Jazzkaar into a two week celebratory festival for thousands of jazz enthusiasts. All Jazzkaar festivals promote young talent and honor jazz veterans. Local and foreign musicians are invited to the festivals, which also raise awareness about American culture. President Ilves and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently awarded Anne for her continued efforts to promote jazz in Estonia.

Anne ends her biography Late Spring with these words: “Although my life patterns have changed within the years, and many of my companions have changed, music will always remain the linking element without which life would be empty and sad.” To this end, she has worked closely with festival organizers in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Finland, to name a few, to introduce her region to jazz. Each Jazzkaar festival features new promising talents from around the world. She travels extensively, and her international reach has been instrumental in bringing foreign artists to Baltic countries. Anne’s goal is to extend the tours of visiting musicians to venues outside of Tallinn, to treat people in underserved regions to the best music available. Baltic and Nordic music promoters and musicians highly value Anne’s many accomplishments.

Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Anne Erm is this month’s outstanding alumna, and her work will be recognized throughout April on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website which serves more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.