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Trying to Get Students Jazzed Up

Jonathan T. Deutsch Memorial fund will reward musical creativity.

Throughout their childhoods, brothers Erik and Jonathan Deutsch were united by music. Both started piano lessons at the age of five.

“We took piano lessons our whole life until we went to college,” Erik Deutsch said. “We grew up together learning music from the same teachers. … We were competitive and we had a lot of fun. We were always kind of neck and neck playing piano together. Music was always a part of our lives.”

Erik Deutsch, 28, is now a professional jazz musician, touring in the United States and Europe. Jonathan Deutsch died in car accident in 2002 at the age of 24.

This year, the Deutsch family and Potomac Community Center will launch an annual award for musical creativity — an endeavor that memorializes Jonathan Deutsch’s love of music and gives back to the Potomac community the Deutsch family held dear.

Erik Deutsch, Jonathan Deutsch and Emily Deutsch all graduated from Herbert Hoover Middle School and Winston Churchill High School. Father Don Deutsch was a member of the Potomac Community Center Advisory Board, and Jonathan Deutsch was active at the community center.

“I remember playing at the Hoover talent show when I was in 8th grade and Jonathan playing with all of my other friends in another band — he was in 6th grade and was playing with all of the other 8th graders,” Erik Deutsch said. “Jonathan always had a wild spark of creativity in his actions. [When he got older] he was always digging up music, finding CDs, introducing me to things I didn’t know.”

Jonathan Deutsch attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he played in jazz ensembles and continued to pursue music. He had realized he would likely not be successful as a professional musician, his father said, but never gave up his passion for music. When Erik Deutsch’s then-band Fat Mama became nationally successful, Jonathan Deutsch became an unofficial manager and promoter for the band.

Don Deutsch recalled insisting that Jonathan get a summer job while living in Chapel Hill. “He called and said, ‘I found something,’” Don Deutsch said. “'I’m playing every Wednesday night at this rib joint.’ Somehow the 8-5 job that was supposed to pay the rent never happened that summer.”

But Jonathan Deutsch set his sights on law school, and had been accepted to attend American University starting in the fall of 2003. He hoped to use his law degree in the music industry.

Though they had moved away from the area, Don and Martha Deutsch were in Washington when they found out Jonathan Deutsch had been killed.

“They had the memorial service at the church in [Potomac] Village,” said Allan Cohen a member of the Community Center Advisory Board and friend of the Deutsches. “The place was overflowing. It was amazing. People came from all over, from school. People from North Carolina came up. Hundreds and hundreds of people came by [the house].”

THE AWARD is initially being called “The Jonathan T. Deutsch Musical Arts Memorial Award for Excellence in Jazz and Creative Music.” Organizers emphasized that the award focuses on musical creativity, not adeptness at any one style or genre of music.

They hope the award, and critique of professional musicians including Erik Deutsch, will give a boost to high school musicians in doubt of their.

The money is part of a memorial fund collected in lieu of flowers following Jonathan’s death. Cohen and others said that there is sufficient money for the award to continue for many years.

“[Jonathan] really cared about musicians and he really cared about good music. I see the award as being an opportunity for a creative musician, to get something back for it in high school. Sometimes it’s a hard time in high school in Potomac, to be a musician and to think about having a career in that field,” Erik Deutsch said.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll sort of tweak some interest in the students, not just in Churchill but throughout the county,” Cohen said.

THE DEUTSCH FAMILY no longer lives in the Washington area. Erik Deutsch is based in Boulder, Colo., Emily Deutsch is in New York, and Don and Martha Deutsch live in a coastal town outside of San Francisco. But all agreed that Potomac was the place to conduct the award.

“Potomac is the place where Jonathan and I grew up together and made our lifelong connections and friends. And where we learned to play music. I always refer to the Washington area as my home,” said Erik Deutsch. “It’s only the natural choice.”

“[Northern California] is a really nice place to live but we’ll never have as many friends as we had in the Potomac community,” Don Deutsch said. “I think it’s appropriate that this is something that’s done in the community where our children were raised. It just wouldn’t have the same meaning out here.”