Musicians who want to repay the community for their opportunities are giving free instrumental music lessons in the Colored Musicians Club.
The idea of free lessons, for young and old, originated with Clarence Lott Sr., a club member and trumpet player.
"A group of us were sitting around the club one day talking about how older members were passing on and not being replaced," he said. "We thought it would be a good idea to encourage sincere young people to take up an instrument."
"Knowing that many couldn't afford private music lessons, we decided to volunteer our time to teach them the basics," Lott said.
So, a program of free Saturday afternoon lessons was launched last fall in the club at 145 Broadway. The Colored Musicians Club is a historic landmark, dating to the 1930s and '40s heyday of jazz in Buffalo and elsewhere in the country.
The informal school is sanctioned by Macy Favor, club president and public radio jazz program host, as well as the club's board of directors.
Lott, the school's coordinator, teaches trumpet. Jazz pianist Al Tinney is the school proctor.
Current volunteer teachers include George Scott, William Murphy, Tony Jaeger and Chris Curtis.
Favor, also a baritone saxophone player and orchestra leader, said he is "particularly concerned with the music called jazz."
"I find that there is a void among young people as to what jazz is all about," he said.
"In these days of budget cuts in the schools, music is being diminished to a great degree," he said.
"It is felt by myself and the board of directors that by providing free instruction, we cannot take the place of the school system, but we are able to introduce the music to those who would be interested, but perhaps not have the resources to seek private instruction," Favor said.
Inability to pay is not a requirement for free lessons at the club. Serious interest is.
"Not only is our program geared to youngsters but is available to those of any age," Favor said. The program currently enlists students ages 5 to 65.
"Jazz is a true American art form, and it is too valuable a resource to be wasted," he said.
Tinney, who is arguably Buffalo's finest jazz pianist and a longtime club member, said his interest in promoting music instruction for young people stems from his belief in their ability, given the opportunity.
Curtis, who teaches percussion, says music develops self-respect and dignity among the young, and promotes cultural growth in the community.
Scott, instructor of reed instruments, says he teaches "for the love of the music and a desire to help young people progress.
"I want to give something back to the community," he said.
Murphy, teacher of saxophone and flute, said simply, "I want to keep music alive in the community."
Jaeger, who teaches piano, is equally succinct: "I love music and have a desire to help someone."
The school is not actively recruiting students but will accept applications, Lott said. Information is available by telephoning the club at 855-9383 between 1 and 3 p.m. Saturdays.
The club also is seeking the donation of musical instruments.