Many local cultural organizations offer ways for young professionals to engage with, and promote the arts in St. Louis. Jazz St. Louis at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz is no different. Members of the Young Friends of Jazz St. Louis are actively involved with the organization and have a direct impact on its mission of advancing the uniquely American art of jazz through live performance, education, and community engagement. The experience can benefit members personally and professionally. It can also be life-changing for members of the group, as well as for students at Jazz St. Louis.
The Young Friends Executive Committee President and third-year board member, Aaron Jackson, explains that he was introduced to the group through a friend. “I was amazed by not only the music lineup, but the services that Jazz St. Louis provides to the children of St. Louis.” This sentiment is shared by several members who were familiar with Jazz St. Louis’ reputation as a world-class music venue, but were not aware of the level and quality of educational programming available to local children in under-served communities.
Abby Devereux, a second-year member who serves as the Executive Committee’s Vice Chair, is a self-proclaimed “sucker for helping young kids” receive better opportunities for education and advancement. “The difference with the Young Friends Board is that we do so much more than simply fundraising. We are actually involved with planning of events, like our new Cocktails for a Cause and the highly popular Brunch and Brass, we’ve created a podcast series…There’s a greater mission of spreading awareness [for Jazz St. Louis and its educational programs] beyond just raising money.”
Among some of the ways Young Friends board members help to actively raise awareness for Jazz St. Louis’ educational programs is through the curation of the Young Friends Subscription Series (which is jazz-newbie-friendly!). The subscription package, hand-selected by Young Friends members, features several artists participating with the Jazz St. Louis Artist Residency programs. Through these residency programs, students in under-served districts learn about, and experience jazz, from professional musicians at the top of their games.
Another example is sponsoring the Young Friends “Drinks and Jazz” events at Nancy’s Jazz Lounge. All who attend Drinks & Jazz (both members and non-members) have a chance to meet current board members and learn about the organization. In addition, guests can meet and socialize with the featured artist before, and sometimes even after the evening’s performance for a unique and intimate experience. In the past, “Drinks and Jazz” events have led to moments such as a private, impromptu late-night jam session at a nearby rooftop bar with the Anat Cohen Quartet.
The Young Friends members also have the opportunity to develop and launch new projects which can benefit students at Jazz St. Louis, such as the Young Friends-sponsored podcast series, “Jazz Happens.” Through this, students of JazzU and Jazz Academy are invited to ask questions of the subscription artists, who generously offer advice and encouragement to the students. These podcasts are available through the Jazz St. Louis website.
The Young Friends board is open to any young professional (and young-at-heart) interested in making a positive, social change in his or her community. “Whether you’re here for the jazz music, or for supporting the various music education programs, there’s something for everyone. It’s not just about the jazz shows,” Jackson encourages.
Surprisingly, many of the board members were not initially fans of jazz music, nor is enjoying jazz music a prerequisite to membership. While Jackson was a jazz musician in high school, Devereux had a different experience. “I ‘pretended’ to play flute in middle school. But I have no music skills, and honestly, I have no real understanding of jazz as far as the different styles, or what makes jazz ‘jazz.’” However, her exposure to the art form and her experience through Young Friends has brought her to “love it.” She has a bigger appreciation for the level of talent and the intimacy that jazz provides.
As for the experience itself, for Jackson, the rewards have been invaluable. “It’s great to be part of such a diverse, fun-loving, passionate, and welcoming group. I’ve gotten to see incredible musicians at a discounted price, I’ve gotten the chance to meet and spend time with the artists, and I’ve made some great connections personally and professionally.” Both he and Devereux agree their time with the Young Friends has been fulfilling personally and professionally. They’ve been able to contribute to the organization in productive ways and see the outcome of their hard work.
Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Young Friends of Jazz St. Louis is encouraged and invited to attend an upcoming event (see below), or consider grabbing coffee with any one of the members. It is a dynamic and enthusiastic bunch just waiting to share more about the program.
Young Friends Events (Note: All events are open to anyone age +21 except where indicated):
- August 21, 2019 from 5:00 PM-7:00 PM: Cocktails for a Cause at 33 Wine Bar
- *September 15, 2019 at 11:00 AM: Brunch & Brass (all ages welcomed) at Jazz St. Louis at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz
- October 11, 2019 at 9:30 PM: Drinks & Jazz w/ Artemis at Nancy’s Jazz Lounge at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz
- November 1, 2019 at 9:30 PM: Drinks & Jazz w/ John Clayton, Jeff Coffin, & Matt Wilson at Nancy’s Jazz Lounge at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz
- December 6, 2019 at 9:30 PM: Drinks & Jazz w/ Alicia Olatuja at Nancy’s Jazz Lounge at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz
- February 7, 2020 at 9:30 PM: Drinks & Jazz w/ Terence Blanchard at Nancy’s Jazz Lounge at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz
- March 20, 2020 at 9:30 PM: Drinks & Jazz w/ Sean Jones at Nancy’s Jazz Lounge at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz
- April 10, 2020 at 9:30 PM: Drinks & Jazz w/ Bryan Carter, Roxy Coss & Riley Mulherkar at Nancy’s Jazz Lounge at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz