Wendy Oxenhorn

Executive Director

Wendy Oxenhorn

Wendy Oxenhorn is the Executive Director of the Jazz Foundation of America, co-founder of Street News and a blues harmonica player.

At the age of 14, Wendy moved on her own to New York City, where she attended the School of American Ballet and danced with New York City Ballet. At 17, a career-ending knee injury threw her into a severe depression, prompting Wendy to call a suicide hotline. She found herself consoling the counselor on the line, who was herself depressed… Wendy started working at the suicide hotline three days later, beginning her career in the humanitarian arena.

In 1990, Wendy co-founded the newspaper, STREETNEWS, which provided immediate employment for a homeless workforce. She recruited Fortune 500 CEOs and celebrities, and gained coverage in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Herald Tribune. Talk show appearances included Regis and Kathy Lee, CBS Nightline and the TODAY Show. At its peak, STREETNEWS employed over 2000 homeless men and women in New York City and had a circulation that equaled the Village Voice. It is credited with being the first homeless-sold newspaper and inspired as many as 150 like-papers in major cities throughout the world.

In 1994, Ms. Oxenhorn started a Board of Education approved public school program called Children of Substance, a support group that helped middle school girls cope with drug addicted and alcoholic parents. These children suffered from Bulimia, depression, incest & suicide attempts.

  In 2000, Wendy became the Executive Director of the Jazz Foundation of America, which provides assistance to elderly professional jazz and blues musicians in need. She was the sole employee at the time she was hired, and JFA had $7,000 in the bank and helped 35 musicians a year. Wendy quickly expanded the foundation's operations and created their annual gala at the Apollo, “A Great Night In Harlem” which has since raised over 30 million dollars, building an organization with a $3 million annual budget. JFA's partnership with Dr. Frank Forte & Englewood Hospital & Medical Center has provided over $7 million dollars of pro bono medical care & operations to 1000 uninsured musicians as well.  Wendy's work included intensive post-Katrina relief efforts. She engineered the donation of $250,000 top shelf Selmer horns and Yamaha drums to be given for free to New Orleans most beloved musicians. The hurricane increased the organization’s caseload from 500 to over 1,500 musicians in crisis, and they are credited with keeping hundreds from eviction & Homelessness by paying rents and taking them out of the domes and shelters they were forced into after the flood. The Jazz Foundation re-housed over 1,000 stranded musician families and brought hundreds back to New Orleans from wherever they were displaced to. Oxenhorn created immediate employment by putting over 500 displaced musicians to work performing in public schools in the 24 States they found themselves in. Thanks to extreme generosity of the Late Great Philanthropist, Dr. Agnes Varis, this one million dollar a year effort became the life-saving Agnes Varis Jazz in the Schools Program, which to this day hundreds of elder veterans are able to pay their own rent while introducing jazz to thousands of children across America. 

Since taking over the executive directorship of the JFA, along with her Jazz Foundation Family of dedicated co-workers including Lauren Roberts, Alisa Hafkin, Joe Petrucelli,  Daryl Dunbar, Petr Verner, Steve Jordan and its Board of Directors and Saints like Agnes Varis, Jarrett Lilien, Michael Novogratz, Quincy Jones, Danny Glover, Dr. Frank Forte, Dick Parsons, Geoffrey Menin & William Douglass III along with many others. They have been able to assist thousands of individual musicians and provide solutions to over 40,000 moments of crisis, saving the homes and lives of the legends themselves, while healing crisis situations with dignified creative solutions...and Love.

Ms. Oxenhorn was recently voted onto the Board of the Montreux Jazz Festival's Artists Foundation in Switzerland, being the first woman and the first American.

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Related Content

  • A Great Night in Harlem
  • Learn more about the Jazz Foundation's Annual Evening Gala at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Related Content

  • Press
  • Learn about the programs and assistance the Jazz Foundation offers.


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