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President’s Report: May 2010

May 8th, 2010 | By

Howard Mandel

Big steps forward are hard for anybody doing anything substantial. The JJA’s recent big steps include:

  • putting together the 14th annual JJA Jazz Awards at City Winery in NYC on June 14. Go to JJAJazzAwards.org for details and to buy tickets ($75 to paid-up JJA members);
  • transforming Jazz Notes, a quarterly, into JJA News, which can operate as a 24/7 information updating service;
  • beginning to use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to reach out beyond the JJA’s immediate circle. Doing this can a) raise the JJA’s public profile; b) attract new members; c) inform our friends and followers who are only slightly or maybe not at all interested in jazz of the exciting world we listen to and live in;
  • building new infrastructures such as those I refer to below.

These efforts have presented challenges to the JJA’s core activists and resulted in disturbance of the organization as we’ve known it. Nothing insurmountable — the biggest immediate problem is that we need to appoint a new treasurer. But let me explain the current situation.

Requiring that JJA members’ dues must be paid-up in order to for them to nominate, vote or receive member discounts to the JJA’s Jazz Awards gala at City Winery on June 14 is a no-brainer. Of course members must be in good standing to participate in such activities. But that’s not how we’ve operated in the past — we’ve been lax.

Transitions of officers in the JJA resulted in many members never learning that their dues were due — and other essential JJA records also went unattended. Since last December, JJA membership secretary JoAnn Collins and I have been painstakingly winnowing through the membership list, correcting dates-of-payment, noting new members who have not been receiving JJA-announce emails, correcting addresses when we have them, scratching out-of-date and unresponsive emails and former contacts. I’ve also sent out letters and announcements urging lapsed member to renew their dues (you may have received one). I continue to do that.

The good news is that this detailed and unglamorous work has given us an accurate membership list that we are about to import into a new, true Members Database, which will replace the old, outdated spreadsheet of member data residing at Jazzhouse.org. The new Members Database has many more features, allowing much better intra-organizational record-keeping and communications than our old system. The bad news is that it’s taking us longer to accomplish the feat than expected. We now expect to have it operable within this coming month.

Current members will be asked to register themselves for accounts in the new database. New members will sign up there. Once you are confirmed as a paid-up member, you will be able to create a profile for yourself, which you can allow the public to see while choosing exactly which details you want to keep private. You’ll be able to direct potential clients to your blog or website, your résumé, writing samples, photo, whatever you want to include. And the JJA will be able to let you know automatically when your dues are up for renewal. We will be able to confirm new members automatically and immediately when they pay online. There will be other internal and external long-term benefits.

But the challenges remain. One of the most immediate is replacing treasurer Gene Marlow, who recently resigned over matters of time commitments. We thank him for his service and hope he will remain active in some other aspect of the JJA.

The new treasurer needs to know and care about the JJA and share its goals, naturally. Beyond that, we need someone who lives in New York and has experience in keeping uncomplicated books (for a small business, for example). Some previous experience working with non-profits is useful, as is knowledge of (or willingness to learn about) new online business tools. The most important requirement, though, is detail-mindedness and the ability/willingness to volunteer time on a regular basis to keep the books and oversee the accounts. It shouldn’t take a lot of time, but it’s definitely a hands-on job. It’s also an essential position — whoever fills it will have the satisfaction of helping the JJA consolidate recent improvements and move forward. If you know of someone who fits the description — who doesn’t have to be a current JJA member, or even a journalist — please mention our need to them, or give me their email and I’ll make contact. If you yourself are interested, please email me at president@jazzjournalists.org.

Overall, the steps we’re making as an organization are sometimes difficult, but they are giant steps. Keep in mind where giant steps led John Coltrane.

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About Howard Mandel

Howard Mandel is an author, media and events producer, editor, educator, lecturer and president of the Jazz Journalists Association.

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One Comment to “President’s Report: May 2010”

  1. avatar Dawn Singh says:

    Bravo, Howard. Keep up the good work.

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