‘Tis the Season… to Network and be Inspired
By Caleb Chapman
JEN President-Elect, Educator, Musician

As we approach the end of the year, we enter my favorite season. The weather gets colder and we begin to prepare for a variety of holidays, travel, gift giving, and resolutions for a new year. Most importantly, it is a time to celebrate family and friends. It is also the occasion to celebrate our jazz family and friends at our annual JEN conference!

There is no question that while there are many benefits associated with being a member of JEN, the greatest is the opportunity to attend the organization’s world-class conference each January. Our JEN President and my great friend and mentor, Bob Sinicrope, recently mentioned to me that the conference experience for each of us can be summed up by the name of the organization. I couldn’t agree more!

While it is certainly the case for almost all styles of music, Jazz is a genre especially meant to be enjoyed live. The improvisational elements of the language create a moment for both performers and audience that will never happen the same way again. With over 77 performances in the space of 4 days, it is a rich aural experience that few have the chance to enjoy at other times of the year. And while many performances include legends of the idiom, many of my favorite past performances also include those by our youngest musicians in invited school ensembles as well as those participating in the exciting JENerations Jazz Festival.

A cornerstone of JEN, the educational offerings of the conference are unparalleled. I have to pinch myself as I sit at the feet of my childhood heroes as they pass on their vast knowledge. As a young musician I remember imagining what it would be like to pick the brain of John Clayton, or to ask Bob Mintzer all those questions I had about saxophone technique, or Randy Brecker on improvisation. Today, we all have the ability to hear from them and scores of other top-tier educators. In fact, this year we have keynote addresses scheduled by the legendary, Herbie Hancock and one of the defining voices of today’s scene, Wayne Bergeron. The information shared guarantees to be both empowering and inspirational. Each time I leave the conference with new ideas and the energy to put them into action!

Perhaps the most meaningful aspect of the conference is the networking aspect. The Jazz community IS a family. The annual gathering of artists, educators, and exhibitors is really one big reunion. If often takes me an hour to cross from one session to another as I see many of my greatest friends and mentors and stop to chat. The “hangs” go on late into the evening and it is hard to say goodbye at the conclusion.

So, as you can see, President Sinicrope nailed it on the head. If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to read about our conference hotel this year, the Manchester Grand Hyatt, I invite you to do so. The facilities are stunning and the location in Seaport Village is amazing. It truly is a venue worthy of such an important event.

I hope each of us takes full advantage of the upcoming conference. Better yet, in keeping with our conference theme of “Outreach: Sharing the Gift of Jazz” come with some friends and introduce them to the network. After all, there is plenty of room in our JEN family. See you all in San Diego to network and be inspired!