Jim Roberts was born in 1928, at the height of the Jazz Age. As a teenager during the 1940s he often went with his parents and sister to thriving jazz clubs in New York City. He became a lifelong lover of the idiom, amassing deep knowledge and a formidable collection of vinyl recordings. He and his wife, Pat, in turn, took their own kids to the Newport Jazz Festival.
“When Jim died in 1988,” Pat recalls, “My two sons and I were trying to think of what to do in his memory. I donated his records to the Rutgers Institute for Jazz Studies, the world’s largest archive of jazz materials, but we wanted also to create something individual and ongoing. We had heard about the Community Foundation, so I called them.
“With the foundation’s help we created the Jim Roberts Jazz Scholarship Fund, which has given needy students the means to take lessons, to discover and pursue musical talent that would otherwise go undeveloped. Before I knew about the Community Foundation, I never thought I could set up something like this, much less manage it on my own. At the Community Foundation, everything was in place for me.
“Our fund has made annual gifts to the Trenton Community Music School. We made a grant to a public school where the music teacher was buying instruments with her own money so that low-income students could take lessons. I love doing this, because these kids learn so much more than music. They learn good habits and the value of practice and discipline.
“It’s tremendously rewarding to attend a recital and hear a young musician whom our fund has helped. I’ll never forget one in Trenton where a six-year-old drummer was being backed up by four professional jazz musicians. That gifted young performer isn’t likely to forget it, either.
“I especially love working with the Community Foundation’s staff. What I’ve found absolutely wonderful is how well their investments have done. Our fund really did grow. It was amazing to grant money, then look later and see that we would have almost the same amount to work with next time!
“Another happy discovery has been that I never feel hemmed in about what the money can be used for. After Hurricane Katrina, many New Orleans jazz performers were wiped out. Their instruments were ruined. Some were hospitalized. We were able to grant a sum of money to Tipitina’s Foundation down there. The Community Foundation vetted the charity — they research target organizations carefully — then they moved quickly and handled all the administration of the grant. So what we’re doing has spread out beyond New Jersey.
“I’m happy I could tell you about my experience at the Community Foundation. I can’t say enough about the people there.”