The Ike Carter Music Heritage Project
A good friend once said they believed one of my most important purposes as a writer was to tell the stories of people who, through their dedication to rendering valuable creative service, have helped enrich the lives of others with important community cultural activities. My friend’s words provided strong motivation in January 2022. That was when I began video-recording weekly interviews with retired Savannah State University radio station programmer, and former Coastal Jazz Association president, Theron “Ike” Carter.
A lifetime of 80-plus years (to date) has allowed Mr. Carter to go beyond indulging his passion for the music of great artists like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Sonny Rollins, and Nina Simone. He has fine-tuned and shared his informed understanding of their timeless significance through platforms ranging from Baltimore’s Left Bank Jazz Society to original radio programming heard by audiences across the globe, and, at live events in schools and public parks in Savannah, Georgia.
Music and Education
As manager of SSU’s WHCJ radio station, Carter made it his mission to educate listeners about, and entertain them with, the history of Jazz (or “African-American classical music” as he prefers), Gospel, and the Blues. Along the way, he has noted music’s evolving expressions, incorporated programs on Latinx traditions, and highlighted overlooked achievements of women .
He also mentored many others to carry on after his official retirement in 2015. Such has been the breadth and impact of his reach that upon meeting him for the first time, people who have never before seen him immediately recognize the distinct gentle gruffness of his voice.
Ike Carter in front of his Music Wall of Fame.
(photo by Aberjhani)
As president of the Coastal Jazz Association (now Savannah Jazz) for a full decade, he organized one of the most celebrated annual FREE jazz festivals in the world, featuring some of the greatest artists of the modern era. [Watch YouTube video of Ike Carter participating in a panel discussion on the history of jazz in Savannah]His interactions with legendary musicians in a professional capacity, plus decades of collecting traditional and innovative recordings (a favorite hobby while in the Air Force) as well as attending every concert he passionately could, has made him a musical treasure in his own right.
Correcting an Assumption
I started listening to Ike Carter’s broadcast (then later streaming) programs in the mid-1990s and frequently met people who expressed their appreciation of the rarity and value of his contribution to radio specifically, and to music culture and education in general. For that reason, as years passed, I made the mistake of assuming his life and work were being documented in book form. Any failure in this regard, I believed (and knew many others did also) would result in a major loss to present and future generations.
Art graphic from a feature on Ike Carter published
in IMPACT Magazine.
Realizing my error, I was grateful when Carter authorized me to document his life story within the context of its historical musical times. We first discussed this music heritage project just before the pandemic hit and later risked working on it while the plague was still at its worst. The onset of war in Ukraine and increasing reports of lives lost to non-military violence in the U.S. filled us with a sense of urgency.
The Journey So Far
Since committing to the process, I have: 1) relied on limited personal resources to assemble a modest project library; 2) replaced worn-out video equipment and outdated digital editing programs; 3) composed a short bio on Carter for Savannah Jazz; 4) conducted extensive research online and off; and 5) accumulated nearly 200 gigabytes of footage in multiple locations. The resulting notebook filled with my hand-written pages can be considered the first draft of a volume blending personal memoir with the subject’s well-informed reflections on the history of African-American music and growing up in segregated Savannah.
(See blog section subtitled Resting on Laurels Not Part of 2023 Strategy )
Purpose of Funding
More recently, I completed an art book on the pandemic and produced visual works to help finance additional labor in the form of travel research and actual writing for the next 2 to 4 years. The $25,000 we’re working to raise will not cover everything to come but could help me significantly to accomplish the following:
• Conduct extended research at HBCU Savannah State University, the Georgia Historical Society, Howard University in Washington, D.C., and historic Black entertainment venues in Baltimore, Maryland.
• Pay fees for access to organizational and academic archives.
• Retain services of a professional copy editor and prepare a professional book proposal (will likely do this myself barring any extreme issues that stop me).
• Upgrade computer equipment and programs to handle large file types and maintain archive materials for film, podcasts, websites, and other media.
• Upgrade video and camera equipment.
• Assist with additional projects which in turn can be marketed to help sustain funding for this one over several years.
• Sustain daily operations to secure storage of materials, maintain work environment, and partially replace the loss of income due to extensive time and labor required to complete the music heritage project.
• Publication of A Passion Supreme and support of related media.
This campaign is officially running from April 4, 2023, to June 30, 2023, because April is National Jazz Appreciation Month and June is African-American/Black Music Month . Supporting the project provides one way to observe these events substantially.
To learn more about me, please check out my Carousel of Sustainable Compassion .
Harmony and Inspiration
Carter’s life has encompassed a range of personal experiences which reflect America’s ongoing quest to establish “a more perfect union” characterized by equal opportunities, fair justice, harmonious coexistence, and access to excellent life-enriching culture. The story of his lifelong love affair with music is one from which Americans and music enthusiasts around the world can draw much pleasure and inspiration. I believe it every bit as worthy of support as the stories of the men and women I wrote about in the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance.
I hope you will support this project either by contributing directly via this GoFundMe page, or, by investing in artworks and books designated to help raise funds for it. Or both. Sincere gratitude to all who contribute whatever assistance you can.
Quote by Aberjhani used for Power 105.1 Radio
Station meme celebration of Black Music Month.