AAJ: So you come from Louisiana...down near New Orleans, the "birthplace of jazz"...
DG: I come from Baton Rouge, which is about a 45-minute drive from New Orleans. While I know that New Orleans says that they have all the jazz musicians, there were a few in Baton Rouge. (smile) Some I'm sure you're familiar with. Alvin Batiste - one of the great clarinetists. Ellis (Marsalis) was from New Orleans. So it's kind of a happy coincidence that Wynton and I come from the same part of the world.
AAJ: So where do we go from here?
DG: My first order of business is to really solidify our operations because of the increased staffing that we are experiencing...along with fundraising, so we can build and expand. There are many ideas that we'd like to explore'working in different genres of music that relate to jazz, much of which is introduced through this upcoming season with Frederick P. Rose Hall. With these venues, we have much more opportunity to explore...even farther...and partnerships that will be explored as part of that. So we need the experience of working in this space, working with partners, and then we can see what our growth curve is going to look like. We also need to identify resources and increase our sponsorship and support for this very important work. Education is essential to what we do and, as one might expect, it's generally not a large money-maker. Consequently, we do need to find interested and committed sponsors to help us expand the scope of our education programs, which are truly exceptional in quality. And with the scope of those programs, we need to find a way to deliver it to more and more communities and to really create more opportunities for jazz lovers to celebrate and support jazz. So I think that's more than enough for a beginning objective. (smile)
AAJ: Jazz at Lincoln Center is a non-profit organization. We have to raise money to promote jazz. That's what we're doing right now.
DG: Absolutely. And there's something's that we'll do that will not be big money-makers - by their nature - but they're important, artistically. Because we're a non-commercial producer, we're not in it just for how much money we're going to get out of it at the end of the day. We're doing it because of the importance of the music. When we are celebrating that particular artist, we're providing a quality opportunity for audiences to really experience that particular area of the music. Those are things that we must raise money for, to ensure that there's a very broad palette that we're able to draw from as we present jazz - which is America's contribution.
AAJ: Is there anything you'd like to say to our readers in closing?
DG: There's no other place in the world like Jazz at Lincoln Center...and with our new home...that's even more true. We welcome everybody to come and enjoy and to celebrate with us. We want to make sure that they know how welcome they are and how glad we will be to see them when they come through our doors. The doors open October 18th and we'll be open every night from that point on. And you can always visit us at www.jalc.org .
Note: Since this article was written, Derek E. Gordon has been promoted to President/CEO for Jazz at Lincoln Center.
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds. I love how jazz can involve musicians who may have never met each other can coming together and making incredible music by referring to the Great American Songbook and musicians who have been playing together for years, who have a deep connection and who explore and create original music that is at the cutting edge of musical innovation in every sense. Performing jazz music requires a virtuosity and technique that only strict discipline can teach as well as a spontaneity and playfulness that reflects the simple folk roots of the music.
I was first exposed to jazz as a student in college. Only knowing I wanted to play guitar, I enrolled in an applied music program that focused on Jazz rhythm section playing. The subsequent journey that I have been on since the time that I enrolled in that class has helped me grow not only as a musician but more so as a person.