Jazz: Not Just Another Four-Letter Word At APAP/NYC

March 23, 2011

Jazz: Not Just Another Four-Letter Word At APAP/NYCAt APAP/NYC 2011 a global conference presented by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), January 7-11, 2011 at the Hilton New York, and themed “Vision 2021” jazz, “America’s classical music,” as the late Dr. Billy Taylor coined it, was very present: among jazz journalists and APAP members at several sessions, with jazz agents/exhibitors in the three-tiered exhibit hall, and by hundreds of jazz musicians at a plethora of performance venues in downtown New York attended by thousands of people. For five days in New York City, at least, jazz achieved a meaningful, cultural critical mass. For educators this is encouraging news.

For those not familiar with APAP, here’s a little background:

#149; Almost 4,000 performing arts professionals and artists from 49 states in the U.S. and 30 countries attend APAP|NYC, making it the largest performing arts industry event.

#149; Attendees represent the entire breadth and depth of the field worldwide including presenters, producers, agents, managers, artists, educators, consultants, vendors, funders, donors, foreign government and cultural institution representatives, volunteer leaders and more.

#149; 49 percent of attendees are leading decision makers or performing arts programming specialists and 54 percent of attendees are in senior management.

Organized and produced by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the Washington, D.C.-based industry association for the performing arts presenting field with nearly 2,000 members worldwide, APAP/NYC is the annual conference for the APAP membership and the gathering place for emerging to established field leaders to contemplate the issues, the opportunities, and the future for this industry. More succinctly, APAP/NYC is a place for soliciting business, creating business, and making business.

Jazz Journalism

Simultaneous with APAP-member sessions, the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA), under the ongoing and able leadership of its founding president Howard Mandel, organized several discussions dealing with the state of jazz journalism, particularly in light of the so-called new media, or social media. Several sessions involved discussions between JJA and APAP members. Another session, this one organized by APAP on the last day of the conference was a jazz forum that brought together artists, agents, managers, and presenters. All were lively conversations. Clearly, jazz journalists are dealing with the advent of new media, particularly blogs and tweets, and the response has been several. But one theme emerged consistently: reporting on jazz still requires the basic journalistic skills as before, but what has changed is the speed with which it can now be reported, the tools available (such as flip cameras, laptops, and the Internet), and the impact these electronic media have on the structure and compactness of the reporting.

The impact of so-called new electronic media on jazz journalism, let alone journalism in general, was paralleled by APAP CEO Sandra L. Gibson. At the conclusion of an APAP-organized session for new colleagues and international members, I asked her what she felt was the most pressing issue facing the “live performing arts” presentation business. Her immediate response was directed at new media. For her the issue was not about whether it was good or bad, but how to deal with it. Similar to the tone of discussions among jazz journalists, Ms. Gibson expressed a concern that new media are changing the live performing arts landscape. She was concerned audiences could now access the performing arts in new ways, and that implies audiences not necessarily sitting in a venue to experience the performance. On the other hand, new media also means new ways of reaching extant and potential audiences to bring them to the live performance. For jazz journalists and APAP executives alike the “new media” situation is clearly formative.

Jazz Agents/Exhibitors

The three-tiered exhibit hall at the Hilton provided ample space for the seemingly never-ending array of “live performance” agent representatives and booking agents. All manner of the performing arts exhibited their wares: dance, music, musical theatre, comedy, the circus, lecturers/speakers, magicians, mime, poetry, and puppetry around 400 exhibitors in all.

The music category was broad and included: jazz, classical (new music), classical (symphonic), classical (western), contemporary folk, country, electronica/techno, gospel, hip-hop, instrumental, jam band, lounge, musical theatre, pop, rock, singer/songwriter, vocal recital, and world music (Afro-Pop, Celtic, Flamenco, Gypsy, Indian, Latin, Reggae, Taiko Drum).

In this category jazz, by far, had the largest listing, not only in terms of representation, but also in terms of showcases: 120+ in all; some groups showcased at the Hilton, many others presented their talents at the various Winter JazzFest venues (see below). Numerous names were familiar, others up-and-coming. Yes, jazz was well represented.

Jazz: Not Just Another Four-Letter Word At APAP/NYCJazz Performers and Performance Venues

The headline of Ben Ratliff’s New York Times in-print and online article of January 10, 2011 said it all: “Jammed Sessions Abound at a Village Jazz Festival.” The “festival” organized in conjunction with the APAP conference was titled New York Winter Jazzfest. Five jazz venues

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