Community Center to Host First National LGBT Jazz Festival

The William Way LGBT Community Center is ready to make history with the nation’s first LGBT-themed Jazz Festival.

The center received a grant for $220,000 from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to host the three-day jazz festival in September 2014. The event is expected to draw 5,000 people.

According to development director Michael Pomante, the grant will go towards such expenditures as payment for producers and entertainers as well as design, marketing and public relations.

The center will partner with DL Media, a talent agency and festival-production company in Media, to stage the event.

Pomante said plans for the event are already underway.

“Right now, we are in preliminary conversations with DL Media to plan a strategy, and they are making recommendations for different festival producers, lighting people and set design. They have a lot of connections with different individuals in the city,” he said. “Right now we are in the planning phase, more back-end work.”

The Pew Center last year awarded the center a $10,000 grant for a music series.

Pomante said the center was encouraged to apply for the larger grant from this initial partnership.

“It was something we went after on our own and we brainstormed at the center on what would have the biggest impact and what would be incredibly unique and what the panel at Pew would be interested in,” he said. “A bunch of us here have a passion for jazz and there is not a natural correlation between jazz and gender identity and sexual orientation, so we did research and saw that this type of thing never happened in the country for a queer jazz festival. We wanted to be the first to put it on.”

The festival will feature 12-15 well-known jazz artists.

However, the center hopes to stay within its mission and promote local talent as well.

“We will be doing an open call for emerging LGBTQ jazz artists. This isn’t just an opportunity for larger names, but an opportunity for local Philadelphians to showcase their work as well,” Pomante said. “Another piece of the planning is to send out a call for artists and have a committee that reviews submissions. We will have those emerging individuals speckled throughout the day, hopefully with the potential on collaborating with well-known artists, which will help us support local and emerging LGBTQ artists, regardless of what field they are in.”

Pomante said the open call will take place in the fall.

The performers will host panel discussions, master’s classes and workshops the first two days.

“We want people to get educated about being LGBTQ and a jazz musician and composer. Some people use their art as a way to express their sexuality and gender identity. We expect that those types of panel discussions will educate our audience individually on what different musicians feel in terms of how their music relates to their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said. “These artists will come from various different racial/ethnic, gender identity and sexual orientation backgrounds as well as from a different age spectrum. They will have quite varying views on the relationship between their identity and their music and the messages that they provide.”

From our media partner PGN-The Philadelphia Gay News.
Angela Thomas

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