NEXT Up: Janis Burley Wilson

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Janis Burley Wilson. Photo by Becky Thurner Braddock.

Since 2002, Janis has been VP of Education/Community Engagement and Director at The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, where she has helped transform Pittsburgh’s arts landscape with programs like Showcase Noir, the Gallery Crawl and the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival, which has revitalized the local jazz scene and changed the game for many local musicians.

Janis shares her exciting week as she finalizes details for this year’s festival and reflects on the event’s fifth anniversary:

As I look back at the last four years of the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival, I remember the excitement and the feeling of anticipation, “wait till they hear her or him.” In the fifth year, I have the same feelings, but I see this year as a turning point. Whatever I want this festival to be in the future, this is the year that I have to introduce those elements that will move PJLIF towards those goals. The sophistication in programming and festival amenities I strive for, while keeping the festival affordable—mostly free—have to be implemented this year, and I think … I hope I’ve accomplished that.

Monday, June 8

At 9:30 a.m., I will meet with my new staff, Marqui Lyons and DeVonne Goode, to strategize for the week. We have a number of details to confirm for the artists that will arrive on June 19th to perform at the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival (PJLIF). DeVonne is working with Classic Limousine on ground transportation for over 100 musicians. His cool, calm demeanor lends well to the numerous email exchanges and last-minute changes that always occur in the last week before the festival. Marqui and I negotiated a lovely deal with P & W Foreign Cars in Shadyside. Mike Brown, Chris Lasko and our good friend Tracy Foster came up with the grand idea to wrap a few BMWs and MINI Coopers into our beautiful jazz festival logo, created by Joseph Lewis and his design team. We will go to their facility to watch the process and then determine where the cars will be located in the next two weeks leading up to the festival.

James Gallery

Janis (in orange) with Sen. Jay Costa and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph at James Gallery. Photo by Joey Kennedy.

After a few clementine oranges (my snack in lieu of the delicious brownies at Crazy Mocha, right next door), I will meet with president and CEO of the Trust, Kevin McMahon, and brief him on the festival budget, news on the upcoming shows at the August Wilson Center on June 19th and 20th, and the North Coast Brewing Company Beer tent at the jazz fest on June 20th and June 21st. These are firsts for the Trust and we want to make sure that all plans are secure for the performances. Jazz vocalist Rachelle Ferrell will perform at the Center on June 19th and legendary rock/jazz drummer Ginger Baker will play on June 20th. So many people are excited about her return to Pittsburgh, and especially about these performances at the Center.

At 2 p.m., I meet with Rona Nesbit, EVP at the Trust to strategize on best practices for the management of the August Wilson Center. We are working together to manage the calendar, to create greater access for local artists and arts organizations to utilize the facility, and to make sure all parts of the Center are in proper working order.

At 4 p.m., I will have a conference call with Latin legend, master percussionist Sammy Figueroa, about his upcoming show at the PJLIF, and coverage on his radio show based in Miami. His show is streamed nationally, so this will be great publicity for the jazz festival.

After work, I will go to the Thelma Lovette YMCA in the Hill District for a great workout with Coach Dillard. I love it there, and looking out the window at the transformation of the Hill is inspiring, especially for a jazz lover like me; so much jazz history took place in the Hill.

Home by 8:30 p.m. … my son plays piano for me and my daughters will fill me in on exciting teenage news like what’s funny on Snapchat and tell me what they want me to cook or buy or where I have to drive them next.

Tuesday, June 9

Tuesday starts at 709 Penn Gallery with a photo shoot for Jamaican artist, Tamara Natalie Madden. Her work is so vibrant and colorful, I know it will be popular during the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.