Mission and History


The mission of the Nashville Jazz Workshop is to enrich people’s lives and build community through world class jazz education and performances.

We accomplish our mission through:

  • A workshop environment where jazz professionals pass on their knowledge & experience in a journeyman/apprentice situation
  • Classes for players & non-players
  • Performances to promote community appreciation of jazz

We embrace diversity among our faculty, staff, and students as a means of achieving excellence in education, as a stimulus for innovation and problem solving, and for ensuring a culture of inclusion.

History of NJW

The organization was founded in 1998 as the Nashville Jazz Institute by Lori Mechem and Roger Spencer, and opened with a handful of students. The program was based on a workshop model developed by Mechem and Spencer growing out of their dissatisfaction with traditional academic jazz education. The workshop model is based on a journeyman/apprentice approach. Students have the chance to play with faculty and perform in different settings. The school attracted a loyal and growing following of students. It also became clear that besides helping the students and instructors, the workshop format was a unique approach to jazz education that could benefit the entire community.

We incorporated as a nonprofit in 2000, changed the name to the Nashville Jazz Workshop, and moved to the Neuhoff Complex in East Germantown. We started new projects: visual art exhibits, student/faculty performances, a twice-monthly performance series – Snap on 2 and 4, and many other educational and performance events for the community. Along with income from tuition and events, we receive individual and corporate contributions, and public and private grant support.

The Jazz Workshop has come to serve as a gathering place for musicians, students, and jazz fans, and is part of the “glue” for what used to be a fragmented jazz scene:

  • Top professionals teach at the Workshop and play together in a superior performance venue.
  • Artists have developed at the Jazz Workshop, recorded CD’s, and have become favorites on the local jazz scene.
  • Student groups have emerged from the Workshop and found performance venues, adding to the availability and diversity of jazz in the community.

We work together with local and regional jazz organizations, radio stations, schools, festivals, and other arts groups. The NJW has become, in the words of one student, Nashville’s “community center for jazz.”

Currently the Nashville Jazz Workshop is located at 1012 Buchanan Street.