The Jazz Philadelphia Summit 2020 celebrates resilience

4 minute read
Jazzmeia Horn will be one of the panelists at this year’s Philadelphia Jazz Summit. (Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff.)
Jazzmeia Horn will be one of the panelists at this year’s Philadelphia Jazz Summit. (Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff.)

The Philadelphia jazz community has been in a miserable state since COVID-19 hit last February. The shutdown of restaurants and venues put everyone’s gig schedule on permanent hold. Rehearsals ended, studio dates cancelled, music students left to their own devices. The state of the arts? Devastated. So the theme of “Resilience” is aptly chosen for the Jazz Philadelphia Summit 2020, happening online Friday, October 9 and Saturday, October 10.

A cavalcade of jazz stars will be on hand to entice jazz fans, and lots of workshops have been scheduled to help jazz musicians (tuning in locally and nationally) deal with the business end of things, cope with the stress of being unemployed, and find ways to adapt performances to the virtual realm.

Artists grieve

“When the COVID crisis first hit, we realized that the process of artists, musicians, and arts organizations would be very similar to the grieving process,” says Gerald Veasley, bassist and president of Jazz Philadelphia. Those affected will grapple with frustration and anger on the way to finding acceptance.

“One young man at one of our town halls said he saw this as an opportunity not to just get through this, but to come out in the end strong,” Veasley continues. “We’d have to discard old ways of thinking and see what we can rebuild that’s new.”

The line-up

Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, Grammy winner and director of Berklee’s Institute of Jazz and Gender Studies, will open the summit with a Friday morning keynote speech focusing on social and gender justice. Later, there will be conversations with British-born bassist/composer Anthony Tidd, pianist and MacArthur Fellowship alum Vijay Iyer, and Philadelphia therapist Dr. Argie Allen-Wilson, of Connections Matter.

The afternoon gets really interesting with some creative curation, featuring discussions like “Musicians Income Strategies” and “The Big Pivot: New Business Models for Festivals.” Attendees will hear from Josh Grossman, artistic director of the Toronto Jazz Festival; Monterey Jazz Festival artistic director Tom Jackson; and Janis Burley Wilson, director of the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival.

On Saturday, the focus will be on education, with “All Rise for Resilience: Calling All Music Educators, Mentors, and Advocates,” a session with Philadelphia Orchestra assistant principal bassist Joseph Conyers. Next on the schedule is “Changing the Game: Taking Music Education Online Successfully” with Philadelphia vibist Tony Miceli, who has been a virtual trail blazer for online teaching for more than a decade.

Performances and a screening

Of course, music performance will be a big part of the summit, with Temple University’s WRTI presenting Philadelphia pianist Orrin Evans’s Club Patio (yes, performing on his patio) with bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Nasheet Waits. WRTI will also dig deep in its archives for filmed performances by the Larry McKenna Jazz Orchestra, Vertical Current, trumpeter Arnetta Johnson, saxophonist Bobby Zankel, and others.

Lastly, there will be a screening of Milford Graves Full Mantis, about the world of polymath percussionist Milford Graves, with a talk-back by director Jake Meginsky and Mark Christman, executive director of Philadelphia’s Ars Nova Workshop, which presents an exhibition of Graves’s multi-faceted works from September 25, 2020 to January 24, 2021.

What keeps us going

There is so much happening at this well-curated summit that folks will have to check out the full line-up for themselves. Philly jazz folks definitely don’t roll over and cry when times get tough. Hey, we’re made of tougher stuff. But it’s nice to celebrate our resilience with an organization like Jazz Philadelphia that not only nurtures the jazz community, but advocates for it too. Often, the big mahoffs (an endearing Philly expression) in town forget about the phenomenal jazz musicians who live and work here—quite a sorrowful state of affairs, especially with cuts to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund endangering the arts citywide. But Jazz Philadelphia takes pleasure in reminding us of the artistic resilience that keeps this community going.

What, When, Where, and Accessibility:

The Jazz Philadelphia Summit on October 9 and 10, 2020. Unlimited Virtual Passes are available at pay-what-you-wish rates ranging from $15 to $250. For free passes for musicians in need, email [email protected].

Image description: Jazzmeia Horn, a Black woman wearing a white turban and colorful beads on her wrist, smiles joyfully with her hands lifted behind her head.

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