I was fortunate to have musicians in my life who took the time to provide mentorship when I needed it. They were more than bandleaders, they were my guides in navigating a complex artistic and professional landscape. Through Ira Tucker, John Blake, Grover Washington, Jr., Joe Zawinul, and Odean Pope, I learned how to lead a band, run a rehearsal, plan a recording session, and interact with a myriad of music industry pros.
I also learned how to deal with failures as well as successes.
After a particularly frustrating set performing in front of a German audience, I made an admission to Odean Pope about my improvised solos.”I can’t seem to get anything happening,” I complained. His response was encouraging and straightforward, “Keep going, and it will happen,” he told me.
It wasn’t just his advice that was helpful; it was also seeing this saxophone giant embody his own advice night after night. I witnessed his perseverance, his continual search for the right sound, and the ways he expressed himself and his ideas through his instrument.
“Keep going and it will happen” became my mantra. Over time, I became more confident in my own ability to express myself. Since then, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of being able to mentor young musicians.
This is a time-honored tradition of how the art of jazz is transferred from one generation to the next. The elder gives from a position of experience and honesty. The younger receives with a spirit of openness and humility. This process is essential to preserving the integrity and quality of the music while allowing space for it to grow and evolve. This form of education happens on and off the bandstand and the “classroom” becomes a learning space with no walls.
Making it happen together – across generations – with new programs
At Jazz Philadelphia, we recognize the importance of this intergenerational connection. While today’s emerging artists are skilled in the nuts and bolts of music-making, they often need soft skills and encouragement to navigate an increasingly complex professional terrain, as well as their own personal artistic journeys and life challenges.
We’re pleased to announce that one of our forthcoming programs—an ongoing series of intergenerational jazz jams—will add to the robust education opportunities already provided at Philadelphia’s leading music institutions, which are all part of forming this inventive new program.
Our Intergenerational Jazz Jams series will strengthen the bond among artists of different ages; provide mentorship and practical information to younger and emerging players; honor the wisdom and musicality of our elders, and give artists the opportunity to hone their improvisational skills together. Look for more details soon about how to participate.
For Jazz Appreciation Month, we have also embraced the theme, “Jazz For All Generations.” We are working with the city’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy to present two jazz concerts that will underscore our commitment to intergenerational connection.
On April 3, we will present an Emerging Artist Showcase at the Cherry St. Pier. Then on April 10, we will offer an Intergenerational Jazz Jam at the Horticultural Center. These performances will feature some of Philadelphia’s rising stars alongside established names we know and love. See below for more details.
We hope you’ll join us for these two free outdoor performances so that we can all begin connecting again and making music again. There are few things as uplifting as live music created by and for all generations. As Odean Pope told me so long ago, if we keep going, we can make it happen. Let’s do it together.
With Love and Respect,
President Jazz Philadelphia