The History & Genesis of JazzBoston, as told by founding Board member Donal Fox.
Bob Young was the visionary and founder of JazzBoston. Bob in the spring of 2005 came to me and publicist Dawn Singh and others to help him build the JazzBoston idea, vision, and organization that became formally known and incorporated as JazzBoston.
Bob, Dawn Singh, Fred Taylor, Steve Schwartz, Steve Charbonneau, Leonard Brown, Charlie Kohlhase me and others held regular meetings and brainstormed to create and build JazzBoston, I reached out to Pauline Bilsky and her husband, Don Carlson — friends and jazz lovers from New York, who had recently moved to Boston (2005) — to attend our meetings with the nascent board. After a few months, and with my advocacy, the board voted to make Pauline Bilsky JazzBoston’s executive director in early 2006! Pauline and Don were instrumental in getting the nonprofit status and other structural implementations from their extensive corporate management and communication, fund-raising skills that the organization needed to truly get off the ground.
By early 2006 the board had grown to a total of 10 members, many of whom I helped Bob recruit:
- Bob Young jazz journalist, freelancer
- José Masso, WBUR-FM host & Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration
- Allan Chase, Dean of Faculty, New England Conservatory
- George Harris, President of Calyptus Consulting Group
- Donal Fox, composer, pianist
- Pauline Bilsky, Executive Director of JazzBoston and former trustee at the New York Foundation for the Arts
- Don Carlson, Managing Director of the Taconic Institute
- Steve Charbonneau, Program Director at WGBH-FM
- Marianne Solivan, vocalist and founder of the Boston Jazz Collective
- Fred Taylor, President of HT Productions and Entertainment Director, Scullers
Bob was interested in expanding the board even further with a hope to add another five members or so with a heavier emphasis for the remaining spots on business, community and public education members. Soon after we brought in Larry Simpson, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Berklee to joined the board, representing Berklee College of Music and its many facets.
The original interactive JazzBoston website was officially launched in late 2006 and the first JazzBoston JazzWeek (see Globe article attached) was presented at Berklee Performance Center in April 2007. By this time Mark Harvey was on board to help implement JazzWeek.
After two years (2005-2007) of serving as a founding board member, I resigned from the Board and remained on as Artistic Advisor.
The following is an excerpt from an article in the (sadly now defunct) Boston Phoenix by Jon Garelick that captures some of the history and genesis of JazzBoston:
JAZZBOSTON BOOSTS THE SCENE WITH JAZZWEEK
By JON GARELICK | April 18, 2007
“Until now, JazzBoston has been most visible through its web site, with its comprehensive Boston jazz calendar, message board for local musicians, media links, and listings of information and services for anyone involved in jazz at any level. (For the record: I’m a member of the non-profit’s all-volunteer advisory council.) JazzBoston originated with Herald freelancer Bob Young, who’d been attending the public forums hosted by the local chapter of the Jazz Journalists Association. He recalls, “It was fun, but it became clear after the first meeting that it was going to be a lot of the same grumbling, sort of this woe-is-me attitude, and people not really thinking that they could take fate into their own hands a little bit more.” But Young did see all the elements of the fragmented jazz scene coming together at those meetings, and that sparked an idea that had been germinating. “The scene has always been fragmented, and unless you were paying close attention to it you might not realize that there’s an awful lot of stuff that happens here on a nightly basis. So this was a chance to pull the people together who don’t normally talk to each other, the various presenters who are realizing that, well, it can’t hurt to promote the entire scene as a whole.”
“Young got together with a handful of people who’d been attending the JJA meetings — publicist and JJA member Dawn Singh, pianist/composer Donal Fox, musician and teacher Toni Ballard, writer Bob Blumenthal. The Web site became an immediate priority, one that Young was well suited to initiate given his journalism background and his day job working in the communications department of a large financial-services company overseeing its intranet. Soon Fox had pulled in recently transplanted New Yorker Pauline Bilsky and her husband, Don Carlson, jazz lovers who have extensive corporate communications and fund-raising experience. Bilsky has since become JazzBoston’s executive director.”
Here’s a photo I found of one of the Jazz Journalist panel discussions, meetings in Boston that many in the jazz community were attending that Bob Young talked about and what inspired his idea and vision for JazzBoston. This picture is from early 2005.
Left to Right, Roger Brown, Garry Giddins, Donal Fox, Bob Blumenthal, MCC Arts Director Winter/Spring 2005