When Muriel and Eugene “Jeep” McCoy moved to Palm Coast in 1985, they found it a pleasant community with everything they wanted for their retirement — except jazz. They sent letters to the Kiwanis Club of Flagler County and other local organizations asking anyone interested in jazz music to meet at their home.
“That night,” Muriel said, “about 40 people showed up.”
So the North East Florida Jazz Association was born, and the McCoys made it a cradle of jazz appreciation for performers and listeners alike, a place to cultivate what Muriel calls “about the only original American artform.”
Muriel McCoy has been the NEFJA’s president since her husband’s death in 2002, and its scope has expanded since its beginning as an evening meeting at her home.
“The mission is twofold: to bring in world-class musicians and to bring scholarships,” she said.
The NEJFA has awarded around 58 scholarships of $1,000 to Floridian college students so far. They have to be enrolled in a jazz studies program at a Florida college, and must have at least 30 credits in said program.
“Then you know they’re serious,” McCoy said.
Within the last few years, the NEFJA has expanded its scholarship outreach to high school students, selecting two promising students from Matanzas High School and two from Flagler Palm Coast High School to send to the University of North Florida’s summer jazz program for a week.
The McCoys’ connection to jazz music went back as far as college. Eugene McCoy was a classmate of legendary alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Once they started their 47 years of marriage, they found themselves living across the street from jazz singer and pianist Shirley Horn.
Muriel said it was Eugene who first got her into the music when they met, playing her records of Miles Davis, his classmate Cannonball and other greats.
And now Nat Adderley, Jr., Cannonball’s nephew, is bringing his quartet to play at the “Jeep” McCoy Scholarship Concert and Supper at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach. Along with the dinner and jazz concert will be a silent auction to benefit the NEFJA.
Jazz musicians are often seen at the Cue Note Billiard Room's live jazz on Sundays, organized by Mica Bethea, co-owner of the Cue Note; also, a full-time jazz club is being built alongside the billiard room.
Muriel McCoy will turn 90 next April — Jazz Appreciation Month.
“I give credit to the music,” she said, for a long, healthy life.