Balancing living a life, continuing to work and staying safe has been very stressful.
Our Take: The Year of Living Dangerously
By mid-March, I will be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Eerily, the date for my second and last injection is March 12. I say eerily because it was on Friday, March 13, 2020, that we learned that The Smooth Jazz Cruise ‘20.2 was cancelled. It was scheduled to depart the next day. Having spent the entire week pleading with the cruise line for this result, that it happened at the last minute and only after some folks had arrived in Miami minimized some of the new found relief, but it was a relief nonetheless. No one would get sick on our cruise. No one who wanted to cancel their sailing would lose their payments.
But the impact of that day brought home the reality of the pandemic and the risks that we all faced and have continued to face for quite some time. For me, it will be a full year. A full year of doing whatever is necessary to avoid COVID-19. Balancing living a life, continuing to work and staying safe has been very stressful. Many of you have shared your own feelings about doing the same.
Securing the vaccination was neither easy nor accomplished without angst. However, I will add that my vaccination experience, once an appointment was secured, was wonderful. Efficient, friendly, informative and respectful. There is no joy in being vaccinated, but there is a significant unburdening that can be mistaken for happiness. I could see that emotion in the eyes of the countless number of 65+ year old folks being vaccinated with me. They were eager to do so, diligent in following the instructions and very kind to those volunteers administering the vaccinations.
Having spent an entire year with one mission at the forefront of our minds and thoughts — that being not getting sick — I will be curious to see what our emotions and thoughts are going forward. Even a fear can become so much a part of your life that its absence leaves a void. Recognizing this, I have decided to take matters in my own hands and fill that void with good stuff. Of course, focusing on our music is at the heart of it all.
Programming the Cruises. The programming of our four jazz sailings in 2022 has begun in earnest. As you know there are several aspects to our process. Of course, we have to schedule the music performances. Most of that is done by our amazing Music Directors (Eric Marienthal for The Smooth Jazz Cruises and Shelly Berg for The Jazz Cruise). Filling all the slots with exciting musical performances and creating a schedule that works for the musicians, the staff, the crew, and for you, our wonderful guests, is a huge task. Though the music portion is the most obvious aspect of programming, properly selecting and placing all of the other events, parties and shows presents its own set of challenges. Brian Rachko, our Production Manager, Aubrey and Brad Pavlik, our Hospitality and Guest Relations Managers, and several of us in St. Louis are actively involved in those aspects of the cruises.
Policies. Whether the issue is seating, photographs, dining choices or health and safety matters, each year we carefully examine the rules and procedures that govern our cruise programs. Though it is too early to decide what level of precautions we will embrace for our upcoming sailings, the relief of being vaccinated may encourage us to make vaccination a prerequisite to sailing. If so, we would call our program “No Vax, No Sax!” Proponents of another catchphrase, “No Unprotected Sax,” are currently under psychiatric observation and treatment, and will soon be required to undergo sensitivity training prior to the cruise season. They will continue their social distancing protocol long after the pandemic ends.
Music, Music, Music. We are also listening to as much new music as possible. It is almost time to prepare the lineups for the ’23 sailings. We have some amazing surprises already under contract. The return of live music is intoxicating, filled with hope and excitement. Undoubtedly, that we have been without live music has heightened our appreciation of the magic of music and the thrill of sharing a live performance with others in the audience as well as those on the bandstand.
Checking on our Jazz Community. The past year has been difficult for anyone connected to the jazz world. That includes Artists, Musicians, Crew, Jazz Clubs, Jazz Organizations, Record Companies and more. We are checking on how everyone is doing, assessing where our efforts can be helpful and working to provide support where and how we can. As time and events unfold, we will share some of our observations and undertakings. In the interim, we urge you to keep up with any jazz club opening, jazz show or other similar event that may be happening in your area. Besides enjoying some live music, your support at this time means more than ever.
Appreciating the Moment. Finally, I intend to guard against taking life, our ability to share our lives with others and the great gift of live music and entertainment for granted ever again. Having enjoyed all that for 70 years now, I never imagined what it would be like to live any other way. Now I know. It is dreadful. I cannot wait to attend a concert, enjoy a jazz show with others, see my friends and colleagues and, most of all, live without the fear of contracting a deadly virus. I hope and pray that we undertake whatever steps are necessary to either eliminate this fear going forward or, at the very least, know how to deal with it in an effective way.
On a personal note, I miss our jazz cruise programs very much. Those weeks of amazing music, wonderful camaraderie and fun mean the world to me. But what I miss most is the very special atmosphere that our cruises provide. We have been blessed with having guests who love music, care about each other, respect the musicians and do not judge others in any respect. They have fun. They laugh. The fun and the laughter is never at anyone’s expense. They discuss the music, offer their opinions and differ on various subjects. This discourse is always respectfully and intelligently presented.
Over the years, I have shared the following thought with anyone who is willing to listen: If only the world operated like The Jazz Cruise, The Smooth Jazz Cruise and Blue Note at Sea cruise, it would be a wonderful place to live.
Our Take is written by Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of The Jazz Cruise, The Smooth Jazz Cruise and Blue Note at Sea. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk About Jazz Fans!
For many years, we have used 10+ Cruises as a measure for special pricing, onboard privileges and more. We remember initiating this program back when only 4 guests qualified. We never dreamed that the number would grow to over 500 people or more. For those wondering if those 500 people are outliers, consider this: There are more than 750 guests in the 6 – 9 Cruise category!
Perhaps the most stunning fact we have learned is that we have a significant number of 20+ Guests! Stay tuned for more information as to how we will be recognizing them both on the ship and before.
There are lots of ways to look at 20+ years on our cruises. One way is that amount of time adds up to over 4.5 months with us at sea. Think of all the chocolates on your pillow that would be!
We are so grateful.
SFJAZZ Streams ‘Jazz & Race’ Live Panel Discussion Tomorrow
SFJAZZ is presents an online panel discussion that will examine the current state of jazz and race as well as its historical context from the music’s inception to the present day.
Starting at 11am PT / 2pm ET tomorrow (February 28), the discussion will be hosted by educator, author and SFJAZZ Board Trustee Claude Steele. The panelists are four world-renowned artists and writers with unique perspectives on the subject, including drummer and composer Terri Lyne Carrington, critic and author Nate Chinen, author and educator Angela Davis, and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Rhiannon Giddens.
This is a free event, however you do need to register by clicking here to watch.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Announces Spring and Summer Shows
Although Jazz at Lincoln Center still cannot welcome live audiences to their venues at Columbus Circle in New York City, they continue to present a robust schedule of concerts and educational programs.
The theme for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Spring Season is Songs of Struggle and Hope, highlighting the incredible artistic, social, and civil liberties made possible by jazz pioneers. The streamed performances will feature celebrations of Betty Carter, Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, and John Coltrane, as well as world premiere collaborations with acclaimed activist Bryan Stevenson.
Monterey Jazz Presents Evolution of a Groove Series
The prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival has a long history of commissioning artists to write music to be debuted at the festival. Now the festival has launched Evolution of a Groove: The Monterey Commissions, a brand-new series of never-before shared commissioned performances from the festival’s archives.
Season One will include commissioned works from John Clayton, performed by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra & the Gerald Clayton Trio; Maria Schneider, performed by the Maria Schneider Orchestra; Billy Childs, performed by the Billy Childs Quartet & the Kronos Quartet; Bill Frisell, performed by Bill Frisell’s Big Sur Quintet; and many other jazz legends. These commission pieces, most of which have not been seen since the original performances, will be available as a paid membership.
Click here for the full list of artists and broadcast dates.