Jazz Mentors 12: Maintaining Creative Autonomy

Volume 117, No. 12December, 2017

All photos by Walter Karling

The Jazz Mentors series held one of its most successful events to date in early November. “Jazz Mentors 12: Maintaining Our Creative Autonomy” was presented to a large gathering of Manhattan School of Music jazz students and professional jazz musicians. The talk was presented by the Council for Living Music in partnership with Local 802, the MSM Jazz Arts Program and MSM’s Center for Music Entrepreneurship.

The scheduled panelists for the event were pianist/composer Jason Moran, vocalist Jazzmeia Horn and historian Wayne Winborne. At the last minute Moran fell ill, and vibraphonist Stefon Harris stepped in so the event could go on as scheduled. (Harris is also the associate dean and director of the MSM Jazz Arts Program.)

The topic was creativity and its relationship to the marketplace, and the trajectory of the modern jazz performer. Harris, who is one of the most sought-after and accomplished vibraphonists of his generation, spoke eloquently about African American history and culture and the relationship of jazz to American society at large. He encouraged students not to compromise when it comes to issues of self expression, which he defined as being true to oneself in any and all situations – in your art, in the way you present yourself on the bandstand with fellow performers, and in business dealings.

From left: Wayne Winborne, Jazzmeia Horn, and Stefon Harris.

Panelist Jazzmeia Horn, winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition and the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, has quickly established herself as a rising star of the jazz world. Horn spoke passionately about the self discipline necessary to continually develop yourself as an artist. She compared nurturing her talents and her musicianship to the work it takes to keep a garden growing. Horn is a powerful speaker, and her commitment to her work left a marked impression on the audience gathered there.

Wayne Winborne, who is the director of the Institute of Jazz Studies in Newark, spoke about reaching young audiences, and the rich vibrant history of the music. He described the exhibit “Records at Play: The Institute of Jazz Studies @ 50” now at the Paul Robeson Gallery in Newark, and he talked about his interactions with young people who have never been exposed to jazz when they encounter artifacts like Miles Davis’s 1970 Martin trumpet, or a dress and wig worn by Ella Fitzgerald.

Harris has made a point of creating a bridge for his students – from their academic lives to the professional world of music making. Likewise, his great enthusiasm for Jazz Mentors ensures that the relationship between MSM and 802 will continue. “These types of panel discussions are an essential part of the development of a young artist,” said Harris. “They play a vital role in helping to empower the next generation to understand their greater role and responsibility in society. It is truly an honor to be a part of the team that is continuing to ensure the great cultural legacy of jazz.”

The audiences at Jazz Mentors programs are guided through some of the most vital aspects of launching a career, including representation, touring, protecting your recordings in digital format, the impact of streaming services, and building a secure financial future.

Located at Local 802 and other locations across New York City, the Jazz Mentors events provide informal settings that allow for relaxed communication and a free-flowing exchange of ideas between the audience and the artists, encouraging full participation and interaction. The events are free and open to the public.

The next Jazz Mentors event is Monday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. at Local 802. Entitled “Jazz Mentors 13: The Artist-Manager Relationship,” the event will feature artist reps Gail Boyd, Karen Kennedy and Michelle Taylor. For more information, contact me by e-mail or see