The DC Jazz Festival® (DCJF) announced that noted independent arts consultant, producer and journalist-author Willard Jenkins has been named Artistic Director of the DCJF, and will assume his new role on January 5, 2015.
“Willard Jenkins stood apart from a quality field of candidates with his breadth of knowledge and experience as an arts administrator, focused on jazz,” said Michael Sonnenreich, outgoing Chairman of the DCJF. “He is the first Artistic Director we have hired for the DC Jazz Festival, and we are confident his incomparable background, his knowledge and his passion for jazz will provide the artistic leadership necessary to continue our mission.”
Jenkins has served in many capacities within the arts, media and academic industries as a consultant, arts administrator, artistic director, writer, journalist, broadcaster, educator and oral historian. The Ohio native has served as artistic director of the Tri-C JazzFest (Cleveland, OH), the Beantown Jazz Festival (Boston, MA), Tribeca Performing Arts Center (New York, NY), and as artistic consultant to the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival (MD), 651Arts (Brooklyn, NY), Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall (New York, NY) and the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC).
As a jazz educator, he has taught history courses at Kent State and Cleveland State Universities. He served as executive director for the National Jazz Service Organization and administrator at the Great Lakes Arts Alliance. As an administrator for Arts Midwest, he developed the nation’s first regional jazz service program and more recently coordinated the NEA Jazz Masters Live grant program. An experienced broadcaster currently programming at WPFW in the District, Jenkins has also served as program host-producer at WWOZ (New Orleans), BET Jazz, KFAI (Minneapolis), and WKSU (Kent State). He has written documentary scripts for both National Public Radio and BET Jazz.
A skilled interviewer, Jenkins has conducted in-depth oral history interviews for the Smithsonian Institution, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and the Weeksville Heritage Center. He is the author of the 2010 book African Rhythms, the autobiography of NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston. In addition, he continues to be a prolific and sought-after writer and journalist, having contributed chapters to several books, written a series of how-to technical assistance books for the jazz community, and contributed articles to numerous local, national and international publications.
In hiring Jenkins, the DC Jazz Festival also acknowledges founder and longtime artistic director Charles Fishman, a Grammy Award-winner who was honored by the Humanities Council of DC in 2012. Fishman conceived the DCJF over a decade ago as a platform to showcase our nation’s singular original art form and the rich history and vibrancy of jazz in Washington, D.C. The Festival premiered in 2005, and with Fishman at the helm, quickly garnered widespread acclaim within the global jazz community and recognition as one of the finest jazz festivals in the country.
Jenkins acknowledged Fishman’s role, saying, “First and foremost, I greatly admire Charlie Fishman, particularly for his fortitude and perseverance in developing the DC Jazz Festival. It was very much needed in this community, but Charlie is the one who took the initiative and made it happen. I join the ranks of those who will always be grateful to Charlie for having taken that step.”
Among Fishman’s many accomplishments with the Festival, he produced some of its greatest concerts with The Kennedy Center, including original programs such as Jazz Meets the Classics and a tribute to Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the famed family, with his sons, Dr. Billy Taylor and Harry Connick, Jr. Under his leadership, the Festival also brought jazz to The National Mall and created the highly popular Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days and Jazz in the ‘Hoods.
The Charles Fishman Young Artist Program, a series that shines the spotlight on young professional jazz artists, is named in honor of Fishman’s invaluable contribution to the Festival over the past decade.