A Juxtaposition of Perspectives
The seventh annual Richmond Jazz Festival was my second year working the event and was a vastly different experience from the year before. In year one, I had been working for Johnson, Inc. for roughly six months and was solely tasked with managing the social media channels before, during and after the festival. I felt that this responsibility was well within my wheelhouse although I found managing a community of over 15,000 to be dually exciting and challenging. At times I felt I was exuding doe-eyes at the RJF Committee meetings but relished the opportunity to rub elbows with all of the stakeholders that were present. I’ll never forget the feeling of keeping the secret that Lauryn Hill, New Edition, Joe, Kamasi Washington, Macy Gray, Natalie Cole and many others would be bringing their talents to RVA. I took great pride in having a role in producing such an experience. While onsite, save for the brief shower Saturday morning, I didn’t have a care in the world and found it exhilarating to leverage my all-access pass amongst the throngs of fans while simultaneously capturing experiences and admittedly enjoying the festival.
In our recaps following my first RJF, I took note of feedback regarding creating a more integrated and interactive social experience for attendees, while increasing and enhancing the touchpoints for our sponsors. I made it my goal to find a solution for these opportunities. Little did I know that these aims would lead me to become instrumental in bringing on a new ticket partner, managing the build of a website and developing an app. My added skin in the game made year two more stressful, rewarding, hectic, stimulating and busy all at once. My blissful outlook of yesteryear was replaced by predominantly optimistic apprehension. Throughout the summer, I just hoped that we’d be spared the storms that were seemingly omnipresent the entire season. Had I known that my climate pleas would be met with the divinely comedic answer of dangerously high temperatures and humidity, I would have made them more specific.
Whether it was my added responsibilities, the blistering heat, having my finger on the pulse of the attendees via social media, email and the app or a combination of all of these circumstances, I had a measurably heightened sense of urgency and anxiety throughout the weekend. While much of the luster that comes with initial experiences had evaporated, the 7th iteration of the Richmond Jazz Festival was still invigorating given the new challenges, conditions and moments it presented. Once The Roots finally took the stage, I had the same celebratory sense of relief I had once Lauryn Hill took the same position the previous year. That sentiment quickly shifted to a slight panic when the front of house overheated and Black Thought was intermittently inaudible, but in the end, the weekend and the preceding months provided ample lessons in patience, perseverance, paying attention to detail and controlling what can be controlled. I look forward to a new year of trials, opportunities and memories culminating in an improved experience for attendees, stakeholders and organizers alike.