Highlights & Findings

2020 Highlights

The 2020 Jazz Philadelphia Summit welcomed the voices of over 250 participants, including 60 presenters, and served as a vehicle for conversations around equality and equity in jazz.

Our keynote speaker, Terri Lyne Carrington, has been deeply immersed in social justice issues and is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Berklee Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice. She brought lived-experience as a female musician and expertise as an arts leader to an engaging conversation that set the tone for other critical Summit sessions. MacArthur fellow Vijay Iyer presented a provocative talk on anti-blackness in the music industry. Finally, Melvin Gibbs offered a compelling historical perspective on protest in jazz. Conversations were sometimes tough, but everyone agreed that we must keep having them.

The Summit also offered actionable solutions for dealing with the shock to our stages that the pandemic has wrought. Entrepreneurial artists such as Orrin Evans, Michelle Lordi, Emmet Cohen, Jazzmeia Horn, and Anthony Tidd shared their strategies for adapting to the new challenges, including innovative approaches to presenting and monetizing their music. Presenters of jazz events of varying sizes and from different regions offered their learned experience on live streaming and opening safely. The conversations revealed a commonality of challenges whether the venue was the Monterey Jazz Festival or Chris’ Jazz Cafe.

With the 2020 Summit behind us, the work continues. Jazz Philadelphia gathers the jazz community throughout the year via our working groups. Learn more about how to get involved with us today.

2020 Conference videos

Dr Argie Allen-Wilson
Dr Argie Allen-Wilson

Big Ideas

Are You Fit For The Fight?

Speaker: Dr. Argie Allen-Wilson
Moderator: Warren Cooper

As a clinical therapist, Dr. Argie Allen-Wilson has been helping individuals and families work through challenges for over 20 years. In this Big Ideas session, Dr. Argie Allen-Wilson speaks with Philadelphia advocate Warren Cooper about the strategies and tools necessary for creating a strong mental, spiritual, and physical foundation in the midst of the pandemic and racial unrest. The main themes discussed in this session are identifying your strengths, determining your “fight” and the hard conversations you need to have, proactively caring for yourself, and recalibrating your role in relationships. Dr. Allen-Wilson frames the discussion with handy acronyms to help viewers remember her strategies, including the 5 A’s (adjust, adapt, acknowledge, appreciate, attitude) and the 5 M’s (mindfulness, meditation, meaningful engagement, movement, music). Ultimately, Dr. Allen-Wilson reminds us that most of the work is in shifting our attitudes. The pathway to reset our mindset comes from the inside out. If we begin in conversation with ourselves, we are less likely to join fights that are not our own and enter into hard conversations and difficult relationships with clear self knowledge.

Immanuel Wilkins, Brandee Younger,
Laurin Talese, Jazzmeia Horn

Game Changers

New Sounds, New Voices 

Panelists: Immanuel Wilkins, Brandee Younger, and Jazzmeia Horn
Moderator: Laurin Talese

The next generation will lead the way. Against all odds, Jazz continues to move forward with fresh approaches to music-making. Award-winning vocalist Jazzmeia Horn, daring young saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins and renowned harpist Brandee Younger, talk about their work and creativity. This session was moderated by Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition winner, Laurin Talese.

Laurin Talese guides a thought provoking panel discussion with Immanuel Wilkins, Brandee Younger, and Jazzmeia Horn about their careers and experiences in the jazz industry. This panel discusses their influences for their careers, their creative processes, marketing themselves as musicians and how they balance modernity with tradition when creating music. Tune in to hear this next generation pave the way for a new look into jazz. 

Strength in Action

Jazz in Protest

Speaker: Melvin Gibbs
Moderator: Warren Cooper

Jazz has a history of outspoken artists expressing their outrage at injustice. From Abby Lincoln to Charles Mingus, from Nina Simone to Max Roach, artists have been willing to lend their voices to the struggle in both overt and covert ways. What lessons can today’s artists learn from the artists of the past to inform their response to social injustice? 

Tom Moon asks Melvin Gibbs questions about how we can better understand the music and the world around us, how we can use music as a tool for healing, and how we can use music to convey ideas that don’t need to be said verbally. Gibbs stresses the importance of creating space for people in your own music, to use that music to bring people together, and think about music in the context of culture. As Gibbs quoted, ““What we could not say openly, we expressed in music” John Coltrane.

Joseph Conyers

Game Changers

All Rise for Resilience: Calling All Music Educators, Mentors, and Advocates

Speaker: Joseph Conyers
Moderator: Gerald Veasley, Isabella Amada, Marquise Bradley, Olivia Hughart

“How can we use music as a tool to make sure our young people are ‘COVID-READY’ for what life has to throw at them?” That’s the query posed by speaker Joseph Conyers, assistant principal bassist of The Philadelphia Orchestra, who is also the founder and executive director of Project 440, an organization that helps young people forge new pathways through music. He is excited to share his views on 21st century music education and to explore this urgent question. This session is moderated by Gerald Veasley, featuring three collegiate students to ask questions about Conyers’ experience in the music industry. 

Music is a tool that Conyers uses to help students to create a new pathway for themselves. Project 440 is an organization about music, but doesn’t teach music. They use music to start the conversation about how students can start their journey through lives, best serve others, become leaders, entrepreneurs, and better people. 

Conyers dives into the important roles educators can serve, especially during the pandemic and the 21st century. He states that it is imperative to keep the students engaged with music education and to grasp the understanding that not every kid is going to want to go into music as a career. He stresses the idea of making sure to integrate both skills in music and skills that will help you throughout life. 

Tony Miceli

Game Changers

Changing the Game: Taking Music Education Online Successfully

Speaker: Tony Miceli
Moderator: Karin Orenstein

Music is one of the most daunting disciplines to teach from a distance. How can teachers develop curricula that keep students engaged online? How can technology be a blessing rather than a burden? Jazz educator and professional vibraphonist Tony Miceli has developed tools and strategies to make online instruction effective and rewarding. This session is moderated by Director of Education at Settlement Music School, Karin Orenstein. 

Tony started rethinking about how to persevere during troubling times starting at the 9/11 events of 2001. From that point, he knew he needed to think creatively how to continue to be a musician when things were not normal in the world. In this session, Tony talks about the process of putting everything online, what it’s like to teach, and what it’s like to continue to teach music online. 

Miceli says “technology is an advancement, not a replacement,” and throughout the session he demonstrates innovative applications and programs to enhance virtual music education. Each program he uses serves a different purpose to get his students to learn how to record themselves with microphones, write music using notation softwares, and learn how to videotape themselves and put together videos. Tony stresses the importance of using technology even outside of COVID. He claims that it is crucial to learn how to adapt to technology so we can enhance our craft. 

Emmet Cohen, Alexa Tarantino,
Michelle Lordi, Orrin Evans

Strength in Action

The Artist Entrepreneur

Panelists: Alexa Tarantino, Orrin Evans, Emmet Cohen
Moderator: Michelle Lordi

No, you don’t have to sell out to sustain yourself. How do you thrive as an artist without sacrificing artistic integrity? Thriving as an artist increasingly requires an entrepreneurial mindset. These artists have developed their businesses without sacrificing their artistic integrity. What are the challenges? What new skills have to be developed? What assumptions have to be left behind in order to be successful? In this session, moderator and vocalist Michelle Lordi leads a conversation of how musicians Alexa Tarantino, Orrin Evans, and Emmet Cohen have taken their professional careers online to be able to sustain themselves. 

Cohen begins by talking about his new live stream series which he has been doing weekly. He started off by playing for his laptop just to bring smiles to face, but it eventually turned into a weekly livestream. He invested in microphones, broadcasting software and learned how to use different programs to integrate sound with video and put it up on YouTube and Facebook. Cohen talks about the importance of learning how to play in front of a camera instead of a live audience. His attention to detail with his virtual setup has been crucial to his success with his series. 

Like Emmet, Alexa Tarantino has been livestreaming with her fiance, Stephen Fifeke, right from their apartment in New York City. They have been streaming every Sunday at 8pm and they archive their performance so everyone can view them. She has been using her earnings to help charities in times of Covid, and also to sustain her fiance and her. Fifeke and Tarantino started an innovative Virtual Jazz Camp called “A Step Ahead Jazz” where they called upon their friends to be guest speakers to deliver an interactive experience to students worldwide. 

Orrin Evans sheds light on how to find sponsors to help cover costs of the band, gear, and more. His Patio Concert Series was able to provide meals for the band, and had a full setup of gear ready to go. He stresses the importance of being able to make money and still be able to enjoy playing the music. 

Todd Barkan, Mike DeNinno,
Spike Wilner, Josh Jackson

The Big Pivot

Jazz Clubs: Realities and Opportunities

Panelists: Spike Wilner, Mike DeNinno, Todd Barkan
Moderator: Josh Jackson

Stages are silent. But the survival of jazz clubs is essential to the development of emerging artists and the stability of established artists. But how will social distancing and protocols affect their survival? How are jazz clubs finding new ways to present the music and keep their doors open? What is the future of arts in cities as an essential part of both our economy and culture? This session will feature a meaningful and honest conversation from Jazz Club owners Spike Wilner (Smalls Jazz Club), Mark DeNinno (Chris’ Jazz Cafe) and Todd Barkan (Keystone Korner Baltimore). This session was moderated by Josh Jackson. 

Spike Wilner found that the only way for him to keep Smalls Jazz Club alive was to create “The Smalls Live Foundation” which subsidized the clubs, venues and the arts. He received funding from Billy Joel who helped support rent on the club, and from there he was able to start a live streaming platform where he could host one band a day (which began June 1.) Since then, they have been able to cut about $88,000 in checks to their musicians and archive the recordings so those can watch them at their leisure. Spike still finds it to be a struggle to sustain his club.

Mark DeNinno used the COVID shut down to do some remodeling within the iconic Philly Jazz Venue, “Chris’ Jazz Cafe.” They redid the entire restaurant, which included a lengthy project of ripping out the carpets, redoing the bathrooms, creating brand new sanitizing stations, and installing plexiglass for the stages so musicians could play safely. Like Wilner, DeNinno put in a recording studio and live streaming capabilities to be able to deliver live music to families at home.

Barkan focused on staying safe and healthy, but also stressed the need to continue to make people feel a part of the jazz community. They have had limited capability for live audience, but he has found a way to make income from at the door ticket sales, and from streaming tickets. 

These three club owners have prioritized maintaining the health and safety of everyone, and also following government orders to minimize the spread of COVID-19. They have created backup plans for anticipatory shut downs to come, and have taken time to think creatively of how they can maintain connections with those who are involved with and support the jazz community while we are all very much apart.