Twenty Years Within Earshot
December always brings opportunities to reflect on the past, express appreciation to those around us, and consider possibilities for the future. But this month is especially significant for me, because it marks the 20th anniversary of my becoming the executive director of Earshot Jazz. These continue to be the most richly rewarding years of my life.
I first volunteered as an usher for an Earshot Jazz Festival concert in 1990. That summer, Seattle hosted the Goodwill Games and Arts Festival, and Earshot mounted a project called the International Creative Music Orchestra (ICMO), including artists from Seattle, New York, and East Germany (where the Berlin Wall had recently come down), improvising in a large-ensemble “conduction” under Butch Morris. The spirit, inventiveness, and absolutely crazy wonder of that music completely turned me around. I was hooked.
I became more involved, as volunteer coordinator, and, eventually, a board member. When Sue Fawver left the director’s post late in 1991, I applied for the job, began as a paid employee (at $160 per week), left my work in construction management, and never looked back.
Working with this organization has exposed me to some of the most exciting creative minds of our time and allowed me to forge deeply rewarding relationships with artists, arts professionals, and fellow travellers here in Seattle and around the world. It has also allowed me to channel my passion for the music, need for approval, and obsessive work ethic to the benefit of the community that we all love.
With more than 2,000 concerts and related programs produced so far, Earshot Jazz has nurtured the creative spirit in jazz, and enriched the artists and audiences of this region. We’ve printed and distributed over a million Earshot Jazz newsletters, free of charge, bringing out the word on Seattle jazz month after month. And we’ve supported jazz education here for years, with a variety of programs and services nurturing generations of young artists.
I am grateful to the vision and dedication of the Earshot founders: Paul and Judy de Barros, for launching this organization on its well-considered course; and Gary Bannister, who passed away late last year, and who’s artistic vision still guides my own. Thanks, too, to all of the board members, volunteers, and hard-working staff members who have pitched in over the years. And God bless Lola Pedrini!
As always, I invite you to join us! Get involved, like I did, by putting your time, creative resources, and passion for the music to work for your community.