Ever wonder about the inner workings of JEN’s selection processes for Board members, Officers and Conference Submissions? Before I became involved in JEN administrative duties, I always wondered how these decisions were made. I have been on both sides of the result in having the honor of performing and presenting at conferences and also having clinics and performances not selected. Strong emotions can accompany receiving the outcome of a submission, some of which is puzzlement at why and how did the decisions get made. Being privy to the way JEN handles this process has given me much respect for the care that those who organize and make decisions on the applications invest into the process.
Board Member Selection
Currently members are being chosen for the five seats on the Board that will become open on July 1 after completion of three-year terms of current Board members. JEN’s first Board members were volunteers selected from the attendees at the Steering Committee meeting May 31, & June 1, 2008. In 2009, Board members were chosen by a popular vote of JEN’s membership. This group included very talented and committed jazz players and educators and they accomplished much including mounting the first JEN conference in St. Louis. However it became clear that the Board could function significantly better by having members with expertise in non-musical areas such as finance, fund raising, law, marketing and arts administration. I am a strong advocate for open elections, but the popular vote approach was unlikely to elect Board members who had the vital non-musical skills that are so important to governing. To better serve the needs of JEN, the Board shifted from a popularly elected vote by the entire membership to nominations open to the membership and having the Nomination Committee review the nominees and propose a slate to the membership to be ratified. After initial resistance to this shift, I am now a huge fan of this approach as the Board is now better poised to serve the organization with a wider range of expertise beyond jazz playing and jazz education.
The decisions involved in presenting a slate of nominees to the membership are accompanied with much research and discussion as to who has skills that will best serve the Board and JEN membership at this time. It is challenging to narrow down the nominees and often involves not selecting friends and those who have and continue to do wonderful work to further JEN and our mission. Given all this, the Nominating Committee feels that the slate of our five nominees have incredible skills, interest and energy that will wonderfully fit the current needs of the Board and I encourage you to vote yes for this slate by visiting jazzednet.org/elections.
Once the Board Director selection process is completed, then the Board will begin the process of choosing our next Vice- President and Treasurer. Our By-Laws require Officer candidates to have at least one year of Board service. The Nominating Committee will invite nominations from Board members and then will recommend a slate for the Board to ratify.
These approaches to the selection of Board members and Officers mirror the way many non-profits organizations choose their leaders. Given the volunteer nature of JEN and our strong commitment to be financially responsible, JEN seeks to recruit volunteers with the skills that can run the organization and plan for its future as opposed to hiring expensive experts.
Conference Submission Selection
The most monumental JEN selection process is choosing which of the conference submissions will be selected to perform and/or present at our 2016 Louisville conference. JEN received 450 applications this year! The Conference Submission process is far more complex than selecting Board members and Officers. Between fifty and seventy volunteer reviewers are recruited and teams are assembled to review different categories of submissions. In the case of performances, the reviewers will rate on the basis of three submitted audio recordings for each group without knowing who is playing on the recordings. This supports our goal this year of not being impacted by the names of the players. Several different reviewers listen to and rate each group and an average score is computed. Groups are compared to other similar groups so a professional big band is not compared to a small ensemble and a college fusion group is not compared to a middle school vocal choir. Additionally, school/community ensembles are grouped in accordance with the ages of students, to ensure an ensemble with graduate students is not compared with a two-year collegiate ensemble.
The process for clinic proposals is similar except the reviewers know who the presenters are. This is important since the quality of the content and the quality of the presentation are both significant factors to consider. Again several different reviewers read and rate clinics on a number of factors. Similar to the performance groups, the selection process compares scores of similar clinics. So a clinic on trombone technique is not competing for a conference slot with an ear-training clinic.
The Conference Submission process is a major task and involves weeks to prepare all the materials before the reviewers can begin to rate the submissions. The review itself takes a number of weeks. Additionally, the process of compiling the scores and assembling the final invitation to appear takes significant time to prepare, prior to notification being sent to everyone accepted.
The entire process is completed with the utmost respect, integrity and fairness to those who so generously take the time to volunteer to file a submission and offer their considerable talents to those who attend our annual conference. JEN does not pay any reviewers or those who submit, or those who are accepted to present or perform. I love this spirit of generosity and commitment from all who participate in the process. I feel this is one of the reasons JEN conferences are so fantastic!
I hope this message has given you insights into our selections process. Please join us in Louisville to experience the amazing results that the process yields.