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Jazz Artists of Charleston names Mary Beth Natarajan as new executive director

Mary Beth NatarajanJazz Artists of Charleston (JAC), the nonprofit organization that presents the Charleston Jazz Orchestra and Charleston Jazz Festival along with other special events and education programs, has appointed Mary Beth Natarajan as its executive director. “We are very proud of what JAC has accomplished during our eight-year history," said Susan Dunn, president of the Board of Directors of JAC. "At this point, we are committed to taking JAC to the next level by enhancing jazz programs, building audiences, developing and supporting musicians, and providing jazz education to youth. Mary Beth’s drive, creativity, leadership and management ability perfectly fits with our organization’s goals. She has an impressive combination of business acumen, event management, and nonprofit marketing expertise to propel us forward. We’re thrilled to have her join us.” Prior to joining JAC, Natarajan was the president and founder of Jai Marketing, a strategic marketing and branding consultancy serving high-tech clients. Prior to launching her own company, Natarajan was the director of corporate and marketing communication at Blackbaud, where she led the rebranding of the company and grew the annual conference into one of the world’s largest tech events for nonprofits. Natarajan is also a co-founder and marketing chair of the nonprofit organization TEDxCharleston, which curates an all-day conference experience at the intersection of science, art, performance and business meant to inspire, engage and transform. “I am honored and excited to take the helm of this amazing organization,” says Natarajan. “I have been following their success for a number of years and know the positive impact they have had on our community. We want to build on all of that positive history and take the organization into a more forward-thinking and financially strategic direction so that we can provide quality programs for years to come.” Natarajan graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. She studied international business at the Ecole Superieure de Commerce in Nantes, France, and received a Master of Arts degree in communication and marketing from the University of Dayton. Jazz Artists of Charleston (JAC) is a South Carolina-based, nonprofit organization incorporated to foster a professional environment for jazz musicians, artists, students and enthusiasts in the Charleston area. Its mission is to develop, promote, and support a vibrant and creative jazz culture through concerts, special outreach events, and educational programs. JAC endeavors to preserve and bolster Charleston’s rich musical history and legacy as it explores the various realms of jazz in terms of how it is created as well as its stylistic expressions. Via: Jazz Artists of Charleston

Jazz Artists of Charleston seeks executive director

Jazz Artists of Charleston seeks a dynamic leader to serve as Executive Director to advance the mission and agenda of the organization. Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for the organization including, but not limited to, fundraising, staff oversight, programmatic development and implementation, marketing, strategic planning, financial management, and constituent cultivation. Duties and responsibilities:

  • Develop and expand all organizational fundraising activities.
  • Cultivate new relationships and opportunities for revenue generation.
  • Deepen and refine all aspects of organizational communication including traditional outlets as well as web presence and social media.
  • Ensure ongoing programmatic excellence, rigorous program evaluation, and consistent quality of finance and administration, fundraising, communications, and organizational systems.
  • Oversee all budgeting activities for JAC including development, implementation, and monitoring activities.
  • Work with the bookkeeper and treasurer to maintain and refine accounting procedures for managing and tracking JAC finances and funds. Communicate JAC’s performance and financial information with the board monthly and with funders as appropriate.
  • Work with the Board of Directors to refine policies and practices in fundraising, marketing, public relations, accounting, information systems, ticketing, and human resources.
  • Work with the Artistic Council and the Board to develop and implement all JAC programming efforts.
  • Ensure all regulatory compliance.
  • Hire, train, and evaluate employees. Ensure that job descriptions are developed and that regular performance evaluations are held consistent with organizational policy.
  • Be an accessible advocate in the community for JAC and all area live jazz music.
  • 5+ years of senior management experience.
  • A proven track record of successful fundraising through events, grants, corporate solicitation, and individual donor cultivation efforts.
  • A passion for jazz and a desire to further develop a nonprofit organization in pursuit of mission.
  • Strong managerial, motivational, and organizational skills.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including public speaking. Proven ability to generate professional quality written materials.
  • Proven financial management experience including budgeting, forecasting, and reporting.
  • Knowledge of nonprofit boards and best practices.
  • Proficient at multi-tasking, prioritizing, problem solving, delegating, and taking initiative.
Compensation commensurate with experience. Application process:
  • Electronic submissions are required and only complete submissions will be considered. Please submit as a pdf file.
  • Qualified candidates should e-mail a current resume, together with a cover letter indicating interest in the position and salary requirements to Chris Burgess at Chris@charlestonjazz.com. Candidate screening will be ongoing until the position is filled. Priority given to applications received by July 20, 2015.
About Jazz Artists of Charleston Jazz Artists of Charleston (JAC) is a South Carolina-based, nonprofit organization incorporated to foster a professional environment for jazz musicians, artists, students and enthusiasts in the Charleston area. Its mission is to develop, promote, and support a vibrant and creative jazz culture through concerts, special outreach events, and educational programs. JAC endeavors to preserve and bolster Charleston’s rich musical history and legacy as it explores the various realms of jazz in terms of how it is created as well as its stylistic expressions. Via: Jazz Artists of Charleston

Jazz Artists of Charleston to present inaugural Charleston International Jazz Festival

Jazz Artists of Charleston will kick off the new year by presenting the inaugural Charleston International Jazz Festival, Jan. 22-25, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina. The festival will illuminate the Holy City’s storied jazz tradition and celebrate today’s vibrant jazz community with a diverse showcase of educational programs and live jazz performances featuring local, national and international jazz artists. Events, venues, artists and additional details are being finalized, and tickets go on sale mid-December. The festival is produced, presented and managed by Jazz Artists of Charleston (JAC), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote musical awareness and education, including the recognition and preservation of the history of jazz in Charleston through performances, special events and educational outreach. Established in 2008, JAC has earned a reputation for presenting, producing and advocating for all things jazz and the artists who bring this music to life in dynamic ways. JAC is proud to partner with the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and many other key community partners for the inaugural Charleston International Jazz Festival. For more information, visit charlestonjazz.com. Via: Jazz Artists of Charleston

Charleston’s new Gaillard Center prepares for community engagement

From the Charleston Post and Courier (Article by Adam Parker; photos by Brad Nettles)

Professional concert presenters tend to take a long view. They work a year or two, sometimes three or four, in advance in order to ensure that their performance halls are booked. Spoleto Festival USA is already putting the pieces in place for its 2016 arts extravaganza, even as it finalizes the details of next year's 17-day event. The Charleston Symphony, too, is charting its programs and other offerings for the 2015-16 season, the first to include newly named music director, Ken Lam. The recently formed Gaillard Management Corporation, responsible for booking the concert and exhibition halls, is faced with a unique challenge: It must ensure that construction is completed by spring and the facility's crew is ready for action in time for the April 2015 gala. It's got little time. The first full season begins next August. Going forward, GMC will strive to present 10-15 concert programs and other events each season, relying on local arts groups to fill out the rest of the schedule, according to Tom Tomlinson, who was named the organization's first executive director in March. Two weeks ago, GMC hired its new education director, Rick Jerue, former head of the Art Institute of Charleston.

'Maturing of the arts'

GMC board member Luther Cochrane said the opening gala will be a 10-day affair that begins April 17 and concludes two Sundays later. It will include "someone or a combination of people who will be nationally and internationally significant," he said. The concerts all will be acoustic. "The whole point is to showcase the hall," Tomlinson said, adding that negotiations with performers are still underway so details can't be publicized yet. Cochrane said the programming will likely include concerts for children, gospel music and presentations by local artists and ensembles, including the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. The concert and exhibition hall both will be used. "We will try to make it as diverse as we can," he said. The show featuring "internationally significant" artists will be an opening night fundraiser. "As programming for the building is done, it will be done in such a sensitive way as there will be something for everybody," GMC board member Renee Anderson said. Looking further ahead, the Gaillard could host holiday concerts, New Year's Eve galas, opera productions, touring orchestras, popular entertainers and more - in addition to performances by local groups, of course. Jason Nichols, director of the Charleston Concert Association said he was once concerned about whether and how his presenting organization and GMC would work together, but after a series of "very positive discussions," he is happy and optimistic. "I think things are going to work out beautifully for the two organizations," Nichols said. "I think what we'll see with the development of the new Gaillard under (Tomlinson's) leadership is a maturing of the arts community in a very positive way." Work on the building, a $142 million project, continues, now at a frenetic pace. Cochrane said the facility will be ready for public use in April, even if a few punch list items remain unfinished. In May, Spoleto Festival USA takes control of the Gaillard and is planning its own opening festivities, according to General Director Nigel Redden. "We will do our own celebration when we open the festival, trying to show it off in a variety of ways," Redden said. "We are planning a festival that will take full advantage of the Gaillard. We want to test its possibilities." That means a big opera production, dance, classical music concerts and amplified popular music shows. "And we've very excited about it," Redden added. "I think it's going to be a wonderful theater."

'A true civic center'

Jerue, like his GMC colleagues, hit the ground running. He is meeting with leaders in Charleston's arts community, gathering information about education programming here and elsewhere and thinking about ways in which the Gaillard can facilitate stronger outreach. "We don't want to duplicate what others are doing," he said. "We should find out the areas that aren't being served, (where) we might have the unique ability to move in and serve those areas." Eventually he will devise a plan of action. "My philosophy is that the Gaillard needs to be a true civic center that's embraced by the community at large, so I'm going to find ways to try to make that happen," he said, emphasizing the need to be inclusive so that all arts organizations, large and small, have a chance to collaborate with the Gaillard and, potentially, one another. "If it's done right, it's going to provide long-standing direction for the Gaillard." Meanwhile, Tomlinson is (among other things) working to schedule events. Already, 268 "use days" have been booked for the Gaillard Center's first 12 months of operation. Of those days when either the concert hall or exhibition hall is in use, about 170 are "public days" when the Gaillard hosts a performance or event, he said. (The rest are days when rehearsals, set-up and other activities are underway.) He's in discussions with a group in the Southeast that might hold its 2017 convention in the Holy City, and he's actively negotiating with local organizations, including the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Concert Association and Jazz Artists of Charleston. Leah Suarez, executive director of Jazz Artists of Charleston, said she is "happy to be at the table" discussing opening festivities and other opportunities. "It says not only that the Gaillard is important but the whole musical landscape," she said. From her organization's perspective, the Gaillard presents some intriguing possibilities. "There are lots of opportunities to utilize the performance hall, as well as the exhibition hall and the outdoor spaces - pretty much the entire building," she said. Jazz Artists of Charleston produces the big band series featuring the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, among other initiatives. The CJO has made its home at the Charleston Music Hall on John Street since its inception more than six years ago, and that's not going to change, Suarez said. But that doesn't mean the CJO and other groups associated with Jazz Artists of Charleston can't present a variety of concerts, education programming and community outreach events in collaboration with the Gaillard, she said. The potential opportunities for engaging young people and drawing them to a major, centralized performance space, are particularly attractive, Suarez added. And the interest the GMC has shown in working with a variety of arts organization is encouraging. "We have a responsibility to make sure Charleston's imprint is diverse and inclusive, and that artists' integrity is intact," Suarez said. "There's plenty of room for everything. That's the feeling I'm getting. It challenges us to be creative as a community, and inclusive, and to collaborate."
Via: Charleston Post and Courier (more images available here.)

Jazz Artists of Charleston celebrates five years and moves forward

Leah Suárez and Charlton SingletonAccording to the Charleston City Paper, Leah Suárez and Charlton Singleton of the Jazz Artists of Charleston have a far-reaching vision for their five-year-old organization, one that is rooted in developing Charleston's jazz culture and creating a strong community of jazz performers, consumers, students, and teachers. (Story by Elizabeth Pandolfi; photo by Jonathan Boncek)

Watching the Charleston Jazz Orchestra perform at the Charleston Music Hall, you'd never think it was operating on a shoestring budget. The men wear tuxedos, the women black evening wear. The 17 musicians sit behind stylish CJO podiums. A curtain of twinkling lights forms the backdrop. And that's just what you see, of course — what you hear at a CJO concert is even more impressive. The orchestra expertly plays famous works by some of jazz's greatest composers, from George Gershwin to Billy Strayhorn to Antonio Carlos Jobim, often bringing in guest artists, vocalists, or even full orchestra sections to perform with them. Conducted by trumpeter, pianist, and bandleader Charlton Singleton, the CJO is nothing if not polished and professional. With that kind of presentation, you'd expect the CJO to be backed by a large administrative staff, or at least a donor base with deep pockets. Yet the CJO is operated by the small nonprofit Jazz Artists of Charleston (JAC), which — among its many other functions — hires CJO players (all of whom are paid) and produces six full CJO concerts each year. "We look 10 years older than we are," says Leah Suárez, the founder and executive director of Jazz Artists of Charleston. "We're working on a very limited budget, probably half of what we ideally should be working at," and 70 percent of that budget is earned revenue, an unheard-of figure for nonprofits, which usually rely on donations and grants to survive. Suárez founded the JAC five years ago with Singleton, the JAC's artistic director, and the late Jack McCray, a jazz advocate and writer who worked at the Post and Courier for many years. The three worked with a small founding board as well. Though the CJO is an integral element of the JAC's mission, it's far from the only one. Suárez and Singleton have a far-reaching vision for their organization, one that is rooted in developing Charleston's jazz culture and creating a strong community of jazz performers, consumers, students, and teachers. To that end, the JAC offers everything from small, intimate concerts to educational discussions to formal jazz history presentations. They also maintain a Jazz Around Town calendar, which lists live jazz performances in bars, restaurants, and other venues in Charleston. What might make them most unique is their focus on in-house arrangements. Rather than performing the same classic arrangements, the JAC encourages its CJO musicians to create their own, like saxophonist Robert Lewis did for this past spring's Porgy and Bess Reimagined. "Everybody knows all the songs from Porgy and Bess," Singleton says. "But the lead saxophonist, he just redid the whole thing. Everybody was in there and they were literally having a wow moment every song." Those in-house arrangements are what really set them apart from other jazz ensembles and orchestras, not just in Charleston but around the country. It's also become a source of great pride for CJO patrons. "Our audience now recognizes the difference in all of that, especially if it's something they're accustomed to hearing. For example, there are recordings that are historic — like when you hear 'Take the A Train' by Duke Ellington, or by Billy Strayhorn, who wrote it. There is one arrangement that everybody knows," Singleton says. "If we do that song, and I say to one of the musicians, 'Could you arrange this?' the audience understands when they hear the song. They know the tune, but they see it's arranged by someone from around here. And they appreciate that." Like most nonprofits — especially those which started in the heart of a recession — the JAC has had its share of struggles in the past five years, most notably McCray's death in 2011. Just three months before he passed away, the JAC had signed a lease to take over the full building at their headquarters at 185 St. Philip St. Suárez had left graduate school to focus completely on the organization, and Singleton had already started as a full-time employee. The three founders were ready to begin strategic planning for the JAC. So while McCray's passing was a devastating blow for Suárez and Singleton personally, it also put the JAC in a difficult position. "Jack was working — he had retired from the Post and Courier and was full-time volunteering with us, essentially," Suárez says. "That's what a lot of people don't know. They don't know that the loss was not just a personal one, not just a board member, a founding member. It was work being done. He was working all the time for the mission of what we were doing, and of course in our community." Fully recovering from the loss of McCray — from a professional standpoint, that is — took them about 18 months, Suárez says. Now she and Singleton feel like they've finally gotten to a point where they can celebrate the five years they've put behind them and start looking forward to the future. They've changed the times for the JAC's season six performances (5 and 8 p.m. instead of 7 and 10 p.m.) and refocused their efforts on promoting gigs by individual jazz performers with the Jazz Around Town calendar. They're also beginning year six in a new, as-yet-unannounced location that will give them double the office and performance space, so they can host more events in-house instead of renting halls. Having a performance space dedicated to jazz and the JAC is important to the two leaders. They started hosting in-house concerts last year during their first JAC Week, which presents several small, unique events — like reinterpretations of classic albums or movie nights — over four or five days. "We started using the space how we intended in doing these tiny little concerts for JAC Week," Suárez says. "This year we did it again, and it just felt right. That's the kind of environment we want to try to be, so the patrons can have direct contact." They'll announce their new home, the Charleston Jazz House, sometime in October, and open their doors to the community soon after that. Eventually, Suárez and Singleton want it to become a kind of community jazz hub, hosting business workshops and lectures for musicians, offering educational programming, and generally supporting and promoting jazz in the Holy City. Ideally the Jazz House would be similar to the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, which is the first stand-alone building in the country built specifically for jazz. "People say, well you have the Gaillard and Charleston Music Hall, but they're not just for what we do," Suárez says. "I think that would be a dream come true to one day be able to walk into a building that hopefully overlooks the beautiful harbor, but something that feels the way we live essentially as jazz musicians. There's a long history of that in Charleston. It's not just jazz per se, it's American music." Of course, in order to get there, the JAC will need support. They were recently awarded a small grant from Charleston County, and their season subscriber list continues to grow — at this point, patrons are renewing their subscriptions before the year's performance schedule is even announced. But an organization this ambitious needs committed donors if they're going to accomplish the goals they've set for themselves. "I think JAC gives [our patrons] that ability to feel good that musicians are supported. We've seen our contributions increase, because they see the value of what they're getting and they see musicians working together," Suárez says. "It's not just another organization where their executive director or development director comes to them and asks for money— we're working on, 'Hey, can you pay for the stands, would you pay for the lights, would you help us keep our light bill going, do you want to help this artist get his album out?'" If the organization can continue to grow its donor base, she and Singleton will be able to concentrate more and more on the reason they started JAC in the first place: the music. "This institution is a grassroots effort and has really taken a lot of sacrifice — I mean, we all sacrifice a lot to make sure it survives, because we care about it. My hope is that this is our forward-moving year. This fifth year was a celebration of what we've come into," Suárez says. "Now we're looking at where we're headed."
Via: Charleston City Paper

Jazz and/or blues all over South Carolina

No matter where you live in South Carolina, you'll be within comfortable driving distance of a jazz or blues festival over the next two weeks.  This weekend boasts three festivals and one very special event, and next weekend is the South Carolina Jazz Festival in Cheraw. Take your pick or take in more than one. And if you do manage that feat, let us know. We'd love a first-hand account of your over-the-top jazz and blues experience. Oct. 4-6

Oct. 4-7
  • Jazz! Carolina, Hartsville, presented by the Hartsville Downtown Development Association
Oct. 7 Oct. 18-21 Did we miss a jazz or blues festival scheduled for October? Let us know!


Jazz Artists of Charleston to pay tribute to Jack McCray

Jazz Artists of Charleston has announced Oct. 7 as the date for a tribute to the late Jack McCray, who died in November 2011. An excerpt from the announcement: "Jack McCray spent the last 30 years of his life building strong and relevant relationships with many people around the world. He had a love for family, history, research, writing, food, music, jazz, people, life and his beloved Charleston. Jack's Charleston Jazz family has spent the last nine months continuing to execute and build upon many of the ideas, projects and programs that he had a significant hand in creating.  Join us as we pay tribute to our dear friend -  a true visionary, founding board member, colleague, and stranger to no one." Jack's influence and involvement in Charleston are captured in two of the many tributes published in November, one in Charleston City Paper by Leah Suráez, executive director of Jazz Artists of Charleston,  and another compiled by online magazine Charlie. Additional information about the Oct. 7 event will be posted on Jazz Artists of Charleston's website as details are finalized. Jack McCray Photos: Reese Moore/Jazz Artists of Charleston via Jazz Artists of Charleston