As we launch into the warmer summer months, things are heating up for JEN in many regards. The JEN Conference performance and presentation offerings are currently being evaluated and processed. Great news! – we have once again received an extraordinary number of submissions from individuals and groups who are willing to volunteer their skill, knowledge and energy at our upcoming Louisville conference. The process of evaluating submissions is challenging and I am delighted to report that the quality of the proposals and recordings is very impressive which bodes well for a wonderful 2016 conference.
At this time of year we approach the end of three-year Board terms and selections for those vacancies. We are most grateful for the services of departing Board members, Rubén Alvarez, José Diaz, Rick Kessel and Judy Humenick.
Rubén is the driving force behind our Latin jazz offerings, created the LeJENd of Latin Jazz award, has organized performance review teams for several years and has been an amazing mentor; José has served as Secretary, on several committees and has been a strong advocate for younger students’ point of view, Rick has served as a treasurer for five years, was the founder of JAZZed magazine and was an important voice on marketing and business issues. All three are Founding members and have served on the Board since 2009. Judy is our first Board member from outside the United States and has greatly strengthened our ties to Canada and its MusicFest offerings, did significant work on our Strategic Plan and been very active with our Membership Committee and reaching out to European jazz educators.
We will miss their services at our Board meetings and their friendship and camaraderie. They have offered their wisdom, time and dedication to the Board. On behalf of JEN and its Board I thank our dear friends for all they have contributed to our Board and look forward to their ongoing and highly valued input to JEN and its programs.
The membership has now officially ratified our incoming Board member slate. Bob Breithaupt a Founding member and current Vice-President will return to the Board. Joining Bob on the JEN Board are Sharon Burch, Dan Flores, Rick Drumm and Todd Stoll. We offer them congratulations and look forward to their ideas and talents when they officially join the Board on July 1. I will share more about them in my July Monthly Message.
Finally I have invited Rick Kessel to contribute to this month’s President’s Message. As I mentioned Rick has been with JEN since the beginning and served as editor of JAZZed and Jazz Times. His message is timely as JEN celebrates its 7thanniversary this month. It is amazing what we have accomplished in such a short period of time.
Message from Treasurer and Founding Member Rick Kessel
Dear JEN community,
As the ensemble sat down in that hot room in Chicago almost seven years ago to this day, we realized that we didn’t have any charts and we were going to have to use all of our skills to get this gig right. Although there was an overall vision of this performance, our leaders knew they had a lot riding on this opportunity: and that improvisation was going to have to happen at every step. We put our heads together and after two long, sweaty days we came up with a plan. Was this going to be a one night stand? Or, would this gig find a life of its own and draw attention from around the world?
I am extraordinarily proud and honored to say that I was there from the beginning, and of course, that I’m referring to our beloved organization, The Jazz Education Network – JEN. What Mary Jo Papich and Dr. Lou Fischer, our co-founders, brought to that meeting was a concept: simply an empty score with a title on it. With only a slight variation of what was said in the movie Apollo 13, we agreed that, “Failure was not an option.” At the end of the second day, there was a team, a vision, a mission and an extraordinarily dedicated and talented group of volunteers.
One of the biggest hurdles encountered was launching the very first conference, which was like going from 0 to 60 in four seconds. We didn’t have a staff, we didn’t have the money, we didn’t have a location, and we didn’t even have time to prepare a conference! However, we were lucky enough to have Jim Widner who stepped up to the plate and basically said, “If we build it, they will come.” Jim proudly brought the first JEN conference to his institution, the University of Missouri, St. Louis, on a wing and a prayer, and put his own name and reputation on the line. But Jim knew in his heart that it would succeed and of course, he put JEN on the right course for future success. The all-volunteer organization stepped up to the plate and “jazzers” came from around the world and provided great encouragement. They said to keep pushing as they saw the vision of the potential for this nascent organization.
Since then, each of the conferences has grown – from New Orleans, to Louisville, to Atlanta, to Dallas, to San Diego and onwards! Jazz musicians, educators, aficionados, business people, and, most importantly, students have filled the clinics, concerts, exhibit halls, and have given this very special music a place to hang its hat. Where else can you stroll out of your hotel room to hear passionate musicians of all levels and talents, from the youngest, to the most brilliantly skilled come together to talk about, learn, play, and fall in love with this music over and over again? Only at JEN. If you’re involved in jazz at any level and want to expand your musical horizons, then you NEED to become a member and be at the upcoming JEN conferences!
Lastly, I am honored to have served on the board of directors for three consecutive terms to do my part to help this organization grow into the wonderful organization that it is today. I count this as, along with founding JAZZed magazine as some of the most important and exciting efforts in my career. I will continue to support JEN and am certain that it will continue its trajectory with its new leadership to insure future generations have jazz in their hearts. If you love jazz then I hope you will support JEN as well. Thank you to our Founding Leaders Mary Jo and Lou and thanks to everyone else who has made this happen!
JEN Treasurer and Founding Member