Meetup in the heat
JJA picnic @ Chicago jazz fest
Four editors from DownBeat, a Jazz Education Network board member and an international crew of media-savvy writers, photographers and broadcasters attended the JJA’s potluck picnic at the 37th annual Chicago Jazz Fest Sunday, Aug. 6, knoshing on donuts, bagels and cream cheese under a blazing noon sun.
While sound checks for Muhal Richard Abrams’ Experimental Band, Cyrille Aimée and guitarist Jeff Parker’s trio were occurring on the Frank Gehry-designed stage of Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavillion, local JJA members including WNUR radio show host Alain Drouot, writer/photographer Michael Jackson, photojournalist Marc PoKempner, Jim DeJong (Jazz Hero for his longtime local communications and consulting work), Neil Tesser (a board member as well as writer and broadcaster), JoAnn Kawell (web administrator) and Howard Mandel (president), chatted with Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen (also an accomplished pianist), British freelancer Martin Longley, writer/musician Philip Booth from Tampa, Deb Morris (associated with WPFW, Washington DC), Susan Fox (photographer and former board member, now in Long Island after five years in Alaska) and Richton Thomas, music director of WHPK (Hyde Park, Chicago). Strangely, no one seems to have taken a photo.
DownBeat publisher Frank Alkyer and editors Bobby Reed and Brian Zimmerman (with his journalistically-educated wife Stephanie) as well as ex-ed Jason Koransky (with his oldest son, Abe) stopped by. So did Marguerite Horberg, co-host as principal of HotHouse, “the Center for International Performance and Exhibition,” and Wayne Segal of the Jazz Showcase (with his wife and daughter); Bruce Gallanter of NYC’s Downtown Music Gallery; WBEZ program host Richard Steele, Chicago newcomer Batya Feldman, who in Baltimore worked in audience engagement and development for an avant garde theater group, and Mary Jo Papich, a founder and past president of JEN.
It was bright and hot but there was ice for the coffee and this cohort schmoozed over a period of three hours. Topics overheard included how to defining journalistic practices across formats and job titles; what constitutes conflicts of interest; how associations (including the JJA) can best benefit and engage members; standards for better jazz photography; increased interest in journalism on jazz education.
Absent invitees to the picnic — including Simon Rentner of WBGO/NPR, Peter Margasak of the Chicago Reader, Jeff Alpert of New Orleans, Andrey Henkin of the New York City Jazz Record, Chicago writers John Litweiler and Bill Meyer — expressed regrets, drawn to simultaneous events such as the performance at off-site Fred Anderson Park of New Orleans’ tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan and local vibraphone star Jason Adasiewicz, Chicago Jazz Fest sets in side-stages. See the complete schedule of the 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival. The Fest is curated by a committee of the Jazz Institute of Chicago, a JJA institutional member and frequent sponsor of JJA activities. Members Tesser and DeJong have both been on the programming committee, which currently includes Margasak as well as Mike Reed, a JJA Jazz Hero, drummer/producer/JIC board member and owner-operator of the Chicago venue Constellation.
The JJA encourages members to organize events of this sort, independently or in collaboration with local partners, as opportunities of professional networking as well as socializing. The budget was less than $100 — several guests brought eats (donuts, an eggplant dish, tuna salad sliders). For how-to consultations including advise on invitation lists, as well as online promotion of such events, email President@JazzJournalists.org, Susan@JazzJournalists.org (Susan Brink, JJA development director), and/or Admin@JazzJournalists.org.
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