Philly has enjoyed a bumper crop of jazz prodigies in recent years, the roots of which can almost always be traced to the Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts on Broad Street. The Clef Club’s education program is run by the revered Lovett Hines, whose former students include notables like bassist Christian McBride, organist Joey DeFrancesco, and saxophonist Jaleel Shaw.
A few hours after we spoke on Wednesday night, Lovett Hines was planning to be on a plane from snow-covered Philadelphia to the balmier climes of Miami. But unlike many 70-year-olds, Hines had no intention of making a one-way migration to Florida. After three days at a retreat with other recipients of the Knight Foundation’s BMe Leadership Award, he’ll be right back at Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts on Monday, where he’s been guiding Philly’s young, aspiring jazz musicians for the last twenty years.
“Lovett is an icon,” says Suzanne Cloud, executive director and co-founder of Jazz Bridge, which aids local jazz and blues musicians in times of crisis. “He’s the uber-mentor. He’s the teacher to Philly’s young lions and lionesses. He has brought kids through the fire of music education and really mentored a lot of heavyweights.”
Asked for his reaction to the award, Hines laughed in typically self-effacing fashion. “It’s so funny to receive an award for something I love doing,” he says. “It’s almost like getting an award for having fun. But I’m so happy that this is coming from an organization that’s dedicated to musicians.”
No one has been more dedicated to musicians in Philly than Lovett Hines. Through two decades at the Clef Club and prior to that at Settlement Music School, he has mentored some of the most high-profile jazz artists to have emerged from Philadelphia during that time, most notably bassist Christian McBride, organist Joey DeFrancesco, saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, and drummer Justin Faulkner.
Hines started out as a piano prodigy before turning his focus to education, and credits his own love for music for his successes with students. “I had a passion for jazz,” Hines explains, “and my idea was to make sure that my young people felt that same passion. I gave the students freedom to create their own voice and let them know that I was there to encourage them, wherever they went. I always tell people that when students come to me, they become my children.” Continue reading →