Farmington jazz bandleader earns $30k grant for virtual concert series

Delbert Anderson promotes healing power of music

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Farmington's Delbert Anderson has earned a $30,000 grant to stage a series of free virtual concerts in locations around the region.
  • The Presenter Consortium for Jazz grant is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and presented by Chamber Music America.
  • Only five applicants across the country were awarded a grant.
  • The grant money will be used to stage three concerts.

FARMINGTON — Over the past several years, Delbert Anderson — a jazz band leader and music faculty member at San Juan College — has worked tirelessly to promote the live music scene in the Farmington area.

He founded the nonprofit San Juan Jazz Society, has promoted numerous live performances, and helped build and outfit an outdoor events venue downtown, accomplishing all that even as his own career began to blossom and his national profile grew.

But Anderson may have pulled off his biggest coup yet by earning a $30,000 Presenter Consortium for Jazz grant funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. It was presented by Chamber Music America, a nonprofit national service organization that provides small ensemble professionals with access to a variety of professional development, networking and funding resources, according to its website.

Much of the organization's work is focused on diversity, inclusion and equity, and the Presenter Consortium for Jazz grant program is no exception.

Anderson applied for the grant in December and was informed two weeks ago he was one of five consortium applicants across the country and Puerto Rico who had won. The grant will allow him to present a series of virtual jazz concerts in April in Farmington, Gallup and Cortez, Colorado. The series will offer performances by three bands and focus on wellness facilities in each community that serve Native clients.

"Jazz is really liberation music used by African-Americans long ago," says Farmington's Delbert Anderson. "It was their escape."

Anderson sees the music he loves as a conduit through which people who live in communities with a large indigenous population can begin to heal from such common social problems as substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide.

The application he put together reflects that belief, and Anderson felt gratified when he was informed by grant officials that they considered his proposal the most compelling one they received and said he conveyed a true understanding of what jazz stands for.

"I emphasized that we're going to use jazz music to highlight indigenous wellness programs," Anderson said. "Jazz is really liberation music used by African-Americans long ago. It was their escape."

Although he is a product of the Navajo Nation, Anderson sees many parallels between the experiences of his people and African-Americans.

"Native Americans have that same history of suffering as African-Americans," he said. "I thought it was a neat idea to expose Native Americans to the healing components of jazz music. … That was the general idea of the application."

Delbert Anderson says he has applied for and hopes to land additional grants that provide opportunities for local musicians.

The grant money will be used to stage three concerts that will feature Anderson's group D'DAT, the Julia Keefe Quartet and the Brad Goode Quintet. Each concert will be presented by a local organization or venue that works to promote the arts scene in that community — the Northwest New Mexico Arts Council in Farmington, the ART123 Gallery in Gallup and the Cortez Cultural Center in Cortez.

A video crew is being hired to shoot and record the performances, and D'DAT is the only musical group that will record its segment in each of the three communities. The other two groups, which are not based in the area, will have their segments shot and recorded in locations closer to their home communities, then edited into the final product.

Collectively, the series will be known as the Blue Desert Virtual Tour. Anderson said the run time for each episode will be a little less than 90 minutes, with each group performing for approximately 20 minutes.

Additional segments will focus on the wellness centers in each community, and there also will be interviews with local leaders, venue directors and well-known jazz figures about the liberating qualities of the music.

Each episode will be streamed at 7 p.m. on the website of the presenting organization. The Farmington episode will be streamed on April 3, while the Cortez episode will stream on April 10. The Gallup episode will conclude the series on April 17. There is no cost to stream the episodes.

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All performers, crew members and presenters are being paid for their work as a result of the grant. Anderson takes a good deal of satisfaction in having generated a paycheck for what he estimated would be a total of approximately two dozen people during a time many of them have seen their ability to work sharply curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He hopes this is only the beginning of such projects.

"This is my first national grant, but there are tons more I think are going to be coming in," he said. "It's a really hot time for these types of things. I've been thinking of ways not just to help myself, but the key, I think, is to think about helping other people."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.