Jazz Mentors Goes On the Road

Volume 118, No. 2February, 2018

The Jazz Mentors 13 panel with Local 802 Jazz Rep Todd Weeks, who helps organize the Jazz Mentors events. Photo by Maria DiPasquale.

Jazz Mentors went on the road last month and the result was another highly successful panel discussion, this time as part of the first annual Jazz Congress, a conference of presenters and musicians co-produced by Jazz Times magazine and Jazz at Lincoln Center. The event was hosted at JALC’s spaces in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.

The Jan. 11 panel featured a second look at the artist-manager relationship with industry experts Karen Kennedy, Michelle Taylor and Laura Hartman.

Laura Hartmann discovered arts administration when she took a job with the Aspen Music Festival after completing a master’s degree in flute performance at the Brooklyn Conservatory. In 1990, she became the operations director at Herbert Barrett Management, where she worked with Dr. Billy Taylor and other artists. In 1997 she founded LVanHart Artist Productions, with her first client, Steve Wilson. In addition to managing a roster of fine jazz artists (currently Wilson, Mike Stern, Diane Monroe and the Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash Duo), Hartmann has produced recordings and many live concerts. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the College of St. Rose in Albany, and gives workshops in schools across the country, as well as being a consultant to a variety of artists.

When asked what a manager does, Hartmann spoke about her priorities.  “The relationship between a client and a manager, for me, is built on mutual trust,” she said. “It’s not a power thing – it’s a partnership that is all about respecting the other’s expertise. Yet, we have to be able to be honest with each other. It’s all about upping your game and making you a better artist.”

From left: Michelle Taylor, Laura Hartmann and Karen Kennedy. Photo by Maria DiPasquale.

Karen Kennedy is the founder and president of 24 Seven Artist Development, a leading artist management firm founded in 1992 to provide full-range strategic marketing and career planning. She has successfully guided the careers of some of the top names in jazz, many of whom have earned multiple Grammy nominations, including NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron; educator, vibraphonist and composer Stefon Harris; pianist Jacky Terrasson; vocalist Gretchen Parlato; Grammy winner saxophonist David Sanchez; pianist James Francies and guitarist/vocalist Camila Meza.

The subject of touring came up, particularly in Europe and other locations outside the U.S. Kennedy talked about the advantage of American jazz musicians, saying, “Jazz is quintessentially an African-American art form. There are many great jazz musicians from other countries who put their own cultural and personal spin on their music, but keep in mind when considering a tour outside the U.S., only Americans can play American jazz. It gives you an immediate advantage.”

Michelle Taylor began her music industry career working as a promotion and marketing executive at various record labels including Blue Note, EMI and Verve. Her list of clients over the years has included violinist Regina Carter, pianist Tommy Flanagan, vocalist Carmen Lundy, drummer Lewis Nash, saxophonist Antonio Hart, guitarist Rodney Jones and vocalist Letizia Gambi. Currently Michelle is working with the young piano and organ phenomenon Matthew Whitaker.

Taylor cautioned audience members about approaching a manager for the first time: “No CD’s, please.  I will gladly take your business card with a link to your work and welcome the opportunity to chat. I want to know what you’re doing, what’s important to you and what makes you special before either of us make any commitment.”

The event, which drew an above-capacity crowd of more than 75 people, was followed by a lively discussion with musicians and artist reps speaking frankly about the business of marketing oneself to audiences, securing representation, negotiating contracts and what to expect from a manager, publicist or booking agent.

The Jazz Mentors series is produced by the Council for Living Music with the additional support of the New York City Council. Located at Local 802 and other locations across New York City, the informal settings 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 takes place on Thursday, Feb. 22 at Local 802, and will feature jazz publicists Lydia Liebman, Matt Merewitz and Jason Paul Harman Byrne. The event will begin at 2 p.m.