[Dixielandjazz] Jazz at Lincoln Center Sets New Goals

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Sep 8 06:40:43 PDT 2008

JALC is prospering and implementing its major mission statement: "To  
ensure the vitality of the music in the long term.” Note the reference  
to the 1200 seat Rose Theater.  That's where Jonathan Russell will be  
on November 6, 7, and 8. Break a leg young man. After playing with us  
at a Horse Show, through Hurricane Hannah, you can do anything.
Steve barbone

September 8, 2008 - NY TIMES - By: Robin Pogrebin
With a New Director, Jazz at Lincoln Center Sets New Goals

In 2006 Jazz at Lincoln Center turned to Adrian Ellis for help.

The organization had been struggling under the weight of its explosive  
growth since moving into a new $131 million home in the Time Warner  
Center at Columbus Circle in 2004. It had tripled its budget and taken  
on three stages, where before it didn’t have even one.

Mr. Ellis, a management consultant who has specialized in advising  
nonprofit cultural institutions, said it was like giving the  
organization a Lamborghini, without first making sure anyone knew how  
to drive.

Now Mr. Ellis is at the wheel.

As Jazz at Lincoln Center prepares to open its fifth and biggest  
season at the Time Warner building on Sept. 18, Mr. Ellis is  
completing his first year as its executive director, the sixth person  
in that post in six years.

It would seem that the hardest work is past. Jazz at Lincoln Center  
has paid off the construction costs on its new building and audiences  
have grown accustomed to visiting its three spaces: the 1,200-seat  
Rose Theater, the smaller Allen Room overlooking twinkling Central  
Park South and the intimate Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. (The organization  
used to borrow space at Lincoln Center.)

But there are still challenges. The Allen Room and Rose Theater devote  
less than a quarter of their schedules to jazz. They are rented out  
the rest of the time because Jazz at Lincoln Center needs the income.  
Mr. Ellis said he planned to double that percentage of jazz over the  
next five years.

He also plans to invigorate the public areas separating the three  
theaters, which, because Jazz at Lincoln Center ran out of money  
during construction, have had a lifeless, utilitarian air. Mr. Ellis  
said he plans to add a cafe, an improved gift shop and an information  
center for jazz events all over the city. And he wants to schedule  
free live music during the day.

His most important task, however, will be building the organization’s  
endowment, which currently stands at $11 million. Mr. Ellis said the  
organization would try to raise $70 million over the next five years.

“Jazz at Lincoln Center needs to be able to weather hard times,” he  
said. He added that he had seen many artistically strong but  
financially weak arts organizations unable to focus on their mission  
“because they are worried about meeting next month’s payroll.”

Mr. Ellis said he also wants to commission, record and broadcast “more  
jazz than we do” and to make the organization’s extensive recordings,  
charts and lectures accessible online.

The 2008-9 season will feature more than 3,000 events, including  
education activities, touring, performances and sets at Dizzy’s Club  
Coca-Cola. Highlights include the pianist Ahmad Jamal performing with  
his trio and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; a festival in honor  
of Thelonious Monk; a two-night stand by Eddie Palmieri’s Latin-jazz  
big band; and a concert honoring the 50th anniversaries of two  
landmark albums, John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and Miles Davis’s “Kind  
of Blue,” led by the organization’s longtime artistic director, Wynton  

Mr. Marsalis makes the artistic and programming decisions for Jazz at  
Lincoln Center and is very much its public face. Bruce MacCombie, a  
previous executive director, said: “If the expectation is that one’s  
going to have much or anything to do with the creative side of things,  
one shouldn’t have that illusion. It’s obviously Wynton’s show.”

But Rob Gibson, the organization’s first executive director, said Mr.  
Marsalis stayed on his side of the aisle. “He’s a terrific trumpet  
player, a great educator, a wonderful composer, and he did a great job  
leading the band,” Mr. Gibson said. “But I always told him, ‘Stay out  
of the administration,’ and he did.”

Mr. Ellis and Mr. Marsalis say they have a good working relationship,  
with Mr. Ellis primarily responsible for operational and financial  
matters and Mr. Marsalis handling the artistic side. “It’s exactly  
like our music — there are no stars,” Mr. Marsalis said. “It’s clear  
who does what. We made a commitment to each other to work together.”

They also share a passion for jazz. “He loves the music,” Mr. Marsalis  

Mr. Ellis has had ample preparation for his new job. Before starting  
AEA Consulting in 1990, he earned degrees from University College  
Oxford and the London School of Economics, worked as a civil servant  
in the Treasury and the Cabinet Office in London and managed the  
establishment of the Design Museum, which opened on Butler’s Wharf in  
London in 1989.

At AEA, which continues to operate out of offices in New York and  
London, Mr. Ellis advised cultural institutions like the J. Paul Getty  
Museum in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Opera, the Isabella Stewart  
Gardner Museum in Boston and the National Gallery in London. He became  
something of a specialist in counseling nonprofit organizations on the  
perils of managing growth.

In March 2006 he was retained to develop a strategic plan for Jazz at  
Lincoln Center. A year and half later he was brought on board to  
implement it. “He’s the right person in the right job at the right  
time,” said Gordon J. Davis, the founding chairman of Jazz at Lincoln  

The executive director’s position has been a revolving door. Mr. Ellis  
replaced Katherine Brown, who stepped down in June 2007 after a little  
more than a year in the job, though she had spent a decade with the  
organization. Her predecessor, Derek E. Gordon, also spent just a year  
in the position. “The job kept growing and changing as we went along,”  
said Lisa Schiff, the chairwoman of the board of Jazz at Lincoln  
Center. “Nobody has quite had the birthing pains we had.”

“We had to learn how to run this organization without letting it run  
us,” she said. “We went from running some concerts to running a major  
arts facility. Pretty scary stuff.”

Increasingly Jazz at Lincoln Center seems to be on solid footing. The  
average performance capacity was 92 percent in fiscal year 2008, up  
from 86 percent in 2006. Ticket revenue increased 13 percent over that  
period. The annual budget has reached $42 million, up from less than  
$1 million when Jazz at Lincoln Center was founded 22 years ago.

Mr. Ellis said a central part of his mandate was creating future  
audiences for jazz. Thus the educational programming ranges from  
WeBop! classes for preschoolers to a middle school jazz academy to a  
high school jazz band program to Swing University, which offers adults  
the opportunity to learn from jazz scholars, historians and musicians.

“The central purpose of Jazz at Lincoln Center is to help ensure the  
vitality of the music in the long term,” Mr. Ellis said. “We’ve built  
a sense of organizational and financial stability upon which we can  

Steve Barbone


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