Insights and Tips on JEN Conference Submissions and Board Selection
Before I became involved with the JEN Board, I remember wondering about the procedures for applying and selection to perform or present at the conference and to become a Board member. This month’s President’s Message will hopefully offer you insights about JEN’s approach to these processes. This is currently a timely subject since the conference submission deadline is March 31 and Board nomination deadline is March 15.
JEN remains a volunteer based organization. As a close witness and participant to how JEN does business, I heartily attest to the integrity, dedication and respect afforded to the review and selection teams and processes. Attention to fairness and the highest quality of offerings are first and foremost. This is a gigantic undertaking and I am most appreciative and grateful for the skill and care that go into this process from the army of folks involved in this process.
JEN Conference Submissions
JEN members at the appropriate level may offer conference submissions in the following areas:
Performance, Clinic, Research and Jazz Industry/Music Business Symposium
Performance submissions are assessed by different teams of reviewers who listen to 3 recordings from each student and professional group without knowledge of who the groups or its members are whenever possible. Submitters provide much information as to the category, size, style and level of their group. A middle school big band is only compared to other middle school big bands. A professional Latin Jazz combo (9 members or less) is only compared to other professional Latin Jazz combos. The number of groups applying in each category and the invitations to perform are determined by the number of available slots on a performance stage and the ratings of the groups applying in that specific category.
The number of groups submitting in each category varies widely. Attention is given to a diversity of styles. JEN has 5 performance stages that feature ensembles in the categories of student big bands, student combos, professional big bands, professional combos and vocal groups. Each stage has 50-minute performances and a one hour turn around time between performances. The number of available slots on a particular stage determines how many groups are invited to perform.
Performance Submission Tips
It is very important that audio files be labeled with this format User/MembershipID_LastnameFirstname_Audio1 to ensure blind auditions and to facilitate the organization of materials.
It’s VERY IMPORTANT that you accurately request backline needs on your application as this is a major factor for placement on a given stage and cannot always be changed later.
Presentation submissions are subdivided into Clinic, Research, and Jazz Industry/ Music Business.
Teams of reviewers read the proposal and bio and at least 4 reviewers with expertise in the areas rate the submissions. Our 2017 conference will have a full day-long Wednesday offering of Jazz Industry & Business, a dedicated research room and 4 additional clinic rooms.
Presentation Submission Tips
It is very important to the organization of materials that outline and bio submissions be labeled with these formats:
It’s VERY IMPORTANT that you accurately request backline needs on your application as this is a major factor in choosing into which room clinics are assigned. Not every room is fully equipped with gear and requests after submitting seriously challenge the production team and JEN may not be able to accommodate them.
Have your outline give an overview of your proposed presentation and include some specifics to help the reviewers fully grasp the intent of your proposal. Please limit your outline to one page.
Chose your title to accurately represent your proposal and attract attention to the potential audience.
Summary of Conference Submissions
The reviewers are anonymous except to the overall team leaders. Reviewers are chosen for their experience, knowledge, variety of background, fairness and discernment. All told there are upward of 60 – 70 reviewers. It takes at least 4–6 weeks to organize the submission data and prepare the review mechanisms for the review teams. It then takes another 4–6 weeks to review and another 4–6 to collate the results and assign the accepted applicants to time slots. The overseers do their best to balance the offerings. It then takes another 4–6 weeks to learn who has accepted the invitation to perform and present.
We have had over 450 submissions in each of the last two years and only have roughly 150 overall slots. We encourage you to apply. If you are not invited it does not indicate your submission was not of high quality. I have applied and not been accepted so I know it can be discouraging, but we encourage everyone to persist and apply again in the future.
JEN Board Nominations
The JEN Board consists of 15 volunteers who are the governing body of JEN. Eligible JEN members at the full level are allowed to self nominate or be nominated for a three-year term. Board members who have served a minimum of one year of Board service are eligible to become one of JEN’s six officers.
JEN’s first Board consisted of those who attended the 2008 Steering Committee where JEN was birthed. In 2009 the general membership directly voted for Board members. It became quickly evident that the popularly elected Board had exceptional musicians and educators but that the Board would be better served by also having members who had experience in areas such as finances, fund raising, accounting, law and other non-musical areas.
In order to help enlist new Board members who can best bring the skills that will help JEN move forward, we shifted our procedure to invite our full membership to nominate people to be considered for Board Service and then have our Nominating Committee carefully interview and vet the nominees and recommend a slate to our members. The full membership has the final approval of this slate. This has proven to be a very wise move as the Board now has members who have a diverse skill set that has improved its ability to govern and manage.
I was originally not a fan of this approach in 2009. I now embrace the wisdom of this process as the Board is much better to respond and function given its wider range of expertise.
If you want to be considered as a Board member, demonstrate in your support materials that you have read and understand JEN’s mission statement, By Laws and Strategic Plan. Board Service is clearly an honor and privilege but it is not necessarily glamorous. It is a wonderful opportunity to be on the team and make a difference in jazz and jazz education. Much of Board Service has to do with decision-making and planning that is not directly related to jazz or jazz education. To be seriously considered, clearly articulate to the Nominating Committee what skills you could be bring to the Board and your availability and willingness to roll up your sleeves and volunteer the necessary time and dedication it takes to govern.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the reviewers and organizers who collectively devote hundreds of hours to assembling the best conference offerings possible. The skill and dedication of these volunteers has helped JEN host seven wonderful conferences and we are grateful for their service.