New Leadership, New Directions
Jimmy Lyons was at the helm of the festival for thirty-five years. He created one of the world's foremost jazz festivals -- a stunning achievement - but in 1992, having decided that a change of leadership was needed, the board appointed Tim Jackson as General Manager. By 1994 the programming expanded to include a wide variety of jazz styles. That year a reinstituted commissioning program made possible Billy Childs's Concerto for Piano and Jazz Chamber Orchestra, a work influenced by Hindemith's Concert Music for Strings and Brass. The piece received a standing ovation at its premiere performance. The following year Maria Schneider wrote a commissioned piece, Scenes from Childhood, a three-movement work ("Bomb Shelter Blast," "Night Watchmen," and "Coming About") based on her memories of growing up in Minnesota.
Among Jackson's innovations was an artist-in-residence program, with Bob Mintzer, saxophone, and pianist James Williams as the first appointments. More recent artists-in-residence included such musicians as Kurt Elling and Terence Blanchard. Beginning in 1997, the festival expanded its program of educational support. By an arrangement with the Berklee College of Music, a full, four-year scholarship, named in honor of Jimmy Lyons, is offered annually to an outstanding California jazz student. Berklee also sends a quartet to play at the festival every year. The Sunday afternoon concerts continue to feature the talent of young jazz musicians in the Monterey County High School All-Star Jazz Band and the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra. The members for the latter group are chosen every year by audition at the Next Generation Festival held every spring at the same time as the National High School Jazz Competition. A Latin Jazz program also recognizes and develops this growing area of interest among young jazz players. Meanwhile, the core of the festival remains: the presentation of major jazz performers, the representation of the diversity among jazz styles, and the annual showcase for jazz throughout the world today.
Gillespie photo by Jerry Stoll; Jackson photo by Craig Lovell/Eagle Visions, © 2008