John Gilbreath has been the executive director of Seattle’s respected Earshot Jazz organization since 1991. He oversees its monthly publications, educational programs and services to the community, as well as the presentation of more than 100 concerts annually, including the long-running Earshot Jazz Festival, Seattle’s major annual jazz event. He has served as artistic curator of regional jazz initiatives such as the Bellevue Jazz Festival, the Anacortes Jazz Festival, EMP’s Jazz in January, and the Art of Jazz series at the Seattle Art Museum. John Gilbreath is also an active radio programmer, hosting a mix of jazz and international music on “The Caravan,” weekday mornings, M – F, on 91.3, KBCS.FM, and bringing new and adventurous music to “Jazz Theater,” Sunday nights on 90.3, KEXP.ORG.
John Gilbreath and Earshot Jazz recently received the national ASCAP/CMA Award for Adventurous Programming, were named as Jazz Journalist’s Association’s Jazz Hero, and have been honored with the Seattle Mayor’s Arts Award, recognizing 25 years of contributions to Seattle’s vibrant cultural community. Under Gilbreath’s leadership, Earshot Jazz was selected to participate in both the National Jazz Network of the Lila Wallace Fund and the JazzNet program of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. John Gilbreath has served on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, French-American Cultural Exchange, and the MAP and Wallace Funds, as well as the Doris Duke, MacArthur, Ford, Allen, and Alpert Foundations. He is a founding board member of the Western Jazz Presenters Network, serves on various other committees, and has been an paid participant at international jazz initiatives in Norway, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. In his rare spare time, he pursues an interest in stone sculpture.
Born roughly 100 years ago in the American South, out of the collision of African, European, and indigenous cultural expressions, jazz has grown in multiple directions here in the U. S. and around the world. Through its various “styles” jazz has been, is, and is becoming, many things to many people. The magic of jazz expression seems to be that it reflects all of the componant cultural influences of its own rich history, made even more complex by its global progression and apparent mandate for reinvention. Jazz doesn’t seem to want to sit still. It pushes against it’s own definitions, at times challenging even those who love it. It is a vibrant, living art form, and I think that’s a good thing.
The Anacortes Jazz Collection is a unique and valuable gift to the community, and a terrific opportunity for future generations. Its existing core is thoroughly researched and thoughtfully collected, reflecting the very core of the art form and the apparent desires of the involved community. In order for the collection to exist in best service to its future users, I believe we must build on the core in a way that acurately reflects the quality and breadth of the art form as it, and its devotees, move into the next 100 years.
My work on the Anacortes Jazz Collection will reflect my deep love of all of the aspects of jazz, along with my ongoing work in radio, concert production, and the global jazz infrastructure. Most importantly, it will also reflect the desires of the original benefactor, its host institution, and the expressed wishes of its community constituents.