Today is International Jazz Day – a celebration that honors one of the diverse, complicated, complex, and wonderful music genres, building the base of countless subgenres and evolved music styles. Next to classical music, jazz (arguably the classical music of the United States!) is regarded as one of the most sophisticated types of music.
On the occasion of International Jazz Day, we wanted to take a look behind the scenes of jazz music and get a glimpse at the scene’s equality factor. Instead of analyzing the jazz scene from the point of view of a game-changing artist, however, we decided to take a look behind the scenes and interviewed Kine Lundervold. Kine is a Norwegian-born, Berlin-based booker, jazz enthusiast - and equality ambassador through and through. With her inclusive network Young Jazz Professionals, she aims to break the tradition of prejudice practices within the industry.
Emerging from the music and cultural sector of her home country, Norway, Kine took on Berlin a few years ago as the German representation of Musikkprofil Booking & Management AS, an agency specialized in the musical exchange between European artists and venues. Since 2017, Kine devoted herself to the genre of jazz.
“I love jazz. I really do. It’s so diverse, the whole foundation of the genre is based upon freedom of expression and was and still is groundbreaking. It doesn’t take rules into consideration, it’s not trying to be perfect or fit into any box.”
As a young female professional in such a creative and borderless environment, she – much like we would – expected to operate within a borderless open environment, creative and inviting beyond the music itself. Although she was mostly surrounded by supportive and open-minded people, however, Kine’s experience did not always meet her expectations. While cutting-edge musicians, young and unique bands, and soloists of jazz are celebrated on stage, some big players were hesitant to commit to forward-thinking practices and innovation. Recurringly, Kine was faced with situations in which she had to play by the rules of an experienced club owner or booker, holding on to an old-fashioned vision of the jazz industry.
“I often found myself being the only 20-something year old in a room, and a lot of the times the only woman, I often found myself being in situations where the older guys were testing me with meaningless trivia or name dropping. “, Kine tells us. Instead of engaging in an exchange of knowledge, some questioned her equal qualification as a professional in jazz music - for instance, due to her age. They were too concerned with preserving a sacred art form to open up to innovation and the forward-thinking ideas of a young creative mind. And while of course, decades of knowledge in the jazz industry may not be forgotten – a genre revolving around improvisation and innovation would surely benefit from welcoming young professionals with open arms and minds!
Kine aims to create a platform for young professionals to connect and team up.
“They are protecting the art, they are keeping the quality high. To make it here, you must want it. You must care about jazz, you must know it. And that’s great, right? The only problem is; jazz becomes a secluded and isolated industry. Jazz is not sexy and approachable. Jazz becomes the opposite of what it aims to be.”, sees Kine. In her search for open-minded young jazz professionals like herself, Kine found a hard truth: the people on the stage can be as innovative and open-minded as possible, but without an inclusive behind-the-scenes business, the jazz industry will not attract the young and open-minded audiences of the future. “I saw the need for a structure of inclusiveness, network, mentorship, and a strategy towards recruitment into jazz, to make sure that the industry focuses on continuing the industry." It is Kine’s mission to change this. By creating her network initiative for Young Jazz Professionals, she aims to create a platform for young professionals to connect and team up, as well as engage in knowledge exchange between experienced jazz professionals and those who aim to be.“This is an obvious need that should have been met years ago. But to look at the positive, people are starting to open their eyes slowly and waking up a bit and in a bigger degree than before, acknowledging the need.”, explains Kine.
Today, you can find Young Professionals in Jazz on Facebook, where they created a community of dozens of eager young minds exchanging experiences within the jazz industry. Next to an open network exchange, Kine and co-founders Daniela Gerstmann, Marthe Heggenhougen and Luciano Hoch are also looking to connect professionals of all age groups through a mentor program. Through the network, they aim to establish connections between young professionals in the jazz sector and experienced players within the industry and organize one-on-one coaching sessions. With their work, Kine and her fellow board members do not only establish important connections for the jazz industry, but they also work towards a more equality-empowering environment for musicians and professionals behind the stage.“The aim of YP is to create and sustain an intergenerational knowledge transfer and exchange through providing expertise, tools, guidance, and network, and hence contribute to growth in the sector as a whole and its future key players.”, Kine declares us.
I was supposed to meet Kine and connect with her through a panel on revolutionizing the appeal and marketing strategies of jazz to attract younger audiences at the 2019 edition of Jazzahead. Now that the global pandemic forced the largest jazz industry fair in the world to postpone this year’s event to 2021, we were not able to meet in person but connected over the phone instead. In our conversation, Kine again stressed the importance of connecting through networks like YJP and exchanging knowledge between young and experienced, male and female, and people of different backgrounds. Especially in times like these, long-lasting and previously successful practices of the music industry need to be reworked and revamped – and only through hand-in-hand collaborations of experienced jazz veterans and the hungry minds of 20 to 35-year-olds, the jazz industry will be able to reach all potential audiences.
“I have no doubt that jazz will live on in a sustainable way, and that we who have the capacity, the resources, and the agency to act, will do so, even though it takes a bit of bravery, hard work, and devotion."
If you are a young professional in the jazz sector, feel free to connect with Kine and her fellow equality ambassadors through their Young Professionals in Jazz Facebook page. By connecting and helping each other, we can come out of these challenging times with new skills and ideas to sustain the ever-changing beauty of jazz music. Happy International Jazz Day!