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Pittsburgh stays connected at Jazz Connect conference

"Inspirational Solo Spots" included a talk by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Janis Burley Wilson

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Last week, the Jazz Connect Conference drew a plethora of jazz artists, journalists and industry leaders to New York City. Presented by JazzTimes magazine and the Jazz Forward Coalition, the two-day event paid homage to those who helped promote the music while pondering its future. (Full disclosure: I contribute to JazzTimes.)

The latter subject came in tones that alternately sounded bleak or contentious (with regard to things like album sales) and hopeful (when pianist Jason Moran stressed finding an individual voice over toeing the musical line). The conference ran simultaneously with the 10th Annual WinterJazz Fest, which presented more than 90 artists over five days at a variety of venues in Manhattan, most of them on Friday and Saturday. So if the future for jazz is bleak, don't tell that to the festival's 7,500 attendees.

Jazz Connect consisted of 17 breakout panel discussions spread over both days, and Pittsburgh was represented in several of them. Marty Ashby, of Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, moderated "New Models and Streams for Presenting Jazz," which dissected the ways in which technology like webcasting and streaming can promote the music. He also made the important point that institutions like his, which have amassed a massive archive, need to figure out how to care for it. Shaunna Machosky, a former music director at WDUQ-FM who now works on the other side of the business at Jazzdog Promotions, spoke on a panel about radio promotion.

Following a rousing keynote address from Ben Cameron of the Doris Duke Foundation, five industry trailblazers presented "Inspirational Solo Spots," talking about their efforts with the music. They included the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Janis Burley Wilson, who made the valuable point that festivals should share audiences in order to keep them coming. For that reason, she advertises Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival in programs for other festivals, an unusual step which has boosted the event's visibility.

"It made sense to me," she said after the talk. "It's the same audience. I went to [festivals in] Detroit and Newport, and I saw some of the same people. So why not?" 

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