…rongill-sings.com: a blog by Ron Gill


Just some thoughts that I have currently regarding what I see happening that have me disheartened. Have you noticed that the political scene has heightened with all the uncontrolled rhetoric and hatred for anything or anybody that makes logical sense? It is unbelievable from pastors who claim to be religious and sponsor Bible teachings and teach their young people in their congregations to sing songs against gay people or others that don’t agree with them and politicians that say hateful things against one another and non-sensical things at that. Because they can.

I will not name names at this time, that’s a topic for another blog at another time, but it’s obvious to me that we as a nation have been steadily gone downhill as a people.

I wonder what the reason could be? Hmmmmmmm? Can you guess?

A few days ago there was lots of activity on Face Book regarding the intentions of public radio station WGBH in Boston, to reduce the jazz programming hours of radio producer, Eric Jackson and his program,  and to eliminate entirely the Steve Schwartz Show. The reaction in the Boston community and other outlets that were affected was outstanding and left a shockwave that consisted of emails, letters to WGBH and other sources. Remarkable.

For too long those of us in the arts community have seen the effects of this downsized economy developing before our eyes. It is time we did something about it. These attempts to change and destroy the essence of who we are has to take on a different direction, a positive direction, that all of us have to be involved in resolving. We cannot sit around and let the world pass us by because other people are doing the work for us. There are too many factions that are out there that are destroying the values that we have  been depending on for years, positive and important values that we depend on and teaching our children and young people to observe and appreciate.

We have to make choices that helps us to improve our lives, and if we don’t make those choices that we know will improve our lives and are important to us, then someone else who do not have our values at heart will destroy all we worked for in our lives.

We take the arts and other things that are important in our lives for granted. We must realize that because of technological advances our lives are taking different directions.  Even those people who control the technical advances  we realize are taking place, they too don’t know where these advances will take us. So it is important for us to be involved as much as we can to lend our voices so that we know the extent of how these changes will affect us. We need to make an effort to control our destiny. If we lose control of our destiny we only have ourselves to blame because we failed to make an effort.

Some reaction comments to this follow:

Jazz axed from Boston’s airways


Last week came the disturbing news that yet another public radio station was about to give up the ghost on its jazz broadcasting responsibilities. WGBH, long a pillar of the Boston radio airways, axed longtime programmer Steve Schwartz program entirely and severely cut-back the nightly programming of its most veteran jazz programmer Eric Jackson, trimming his program to a weekend graveyard shift. Below is an editorial on this subject by jazz radio vet Bobby Jackson. Additionally a petition drive has been started by our web portal Jazzcorner.com. Please read below Bobby’s piece and sign your name to the cause…

Bobby Jackson at the radio console

This current issue with WGBH, Eric Jackson and Steve Schwartz actually is not about them. There is a much more at work here. This is about systematic oppression and privilege of African-American culture. I shared the article about the disappearance of commercial Black radio stations so eloquently pointed out by one of my radio heroes, “talk” show host Bob Law with the recent demise of WRKS. Ed Bride noted that GBH is not an African-American station. For those who did not see the posts, I responded, “They Play Jazz….”

The elimination of jazz on other public radio stations have not helped their numbers. In fact, in many situations, these behind closed doors, board room decisions have put the stations at odds with many supporters in their communities; supporters who have left their ranks. These stations still struggle against the tide of choices audiences possess that year after year, seem to multiply as the technologies to deliver programming becomes more and more facile for them to access. They are no less at risk of survivial than before they pulled the plug. They have also “lost” income because of the exodus of audience numbers that supported them because of the music programming. These stations as so many of you pointed out are now rehashing the same news like a monotone drone in a twenty four hour cycle.

I am incensed that African-American music and culture continues to be marginalized and is the first to be thrown under the bus when there is a “financial” crisis. It is criminal that In this new millennium this pattern continues. We can look at the pattern of stations across the country and see that what I’m saying is real. It is criminal that In this new millennium this pattern continues (my version of a newsie rerun).

One of the reasons public radio exists in the first place was to give voice to the voiceless over the airwaves. There is a rich history surrounding what we do that speaks to affirmation of the true melting pot that America is suppose to be. It is a model on display to share; for all to learn from, how we are able to come together under the magic of jazz, a music that originated in the African-American and is now shared not just here in the United States, but the world over. It is insane that it is being taken off the shelf in so many places in its place of birth. Is Ken Burns the only person who can get funding to talk about the story of how we as Americans come together? He even had the sense to realize that jazz is a major melting pot for this. The opportunities for this story to continue to be heard in the place of its birth are slowly being scraped away. This is not about Eric Jackson. This is not about Scott Hanley, formerly of WQUQ or Chris Heim formerly of WBEZ. This is not about me. This is about all of us. Even those who continue. None of you are safe. If you’re not making the decision in those board rooms, you too are also endangered. They are crunching numbers and they are not talking to you, but ABOUT you. What will they do with you? I think you know the answer to that…..

I turned to and became involved in public radio because I believed it was a perfect fit for the talents I began to develop as a journalism major attending The University of Georgia in Athens and even before that at my beloved alma mater, DeWitt Clinton High School. I have something to share and will continue to share it. When I was let go at WCPN in the Fall of 2009 I did not stop my journey to be heard despite the difficulties I experienced to be hired in other markets. Truth be told, I have more listenership today on terrestrial radio stations, in more cities than at any time in my radio career. I find it somewhat amusing that people in Guam can hear my show which I believe is the finest show I’ve ever conceived in all my years in service of this music. Conversely, I have made less money than at any time in my life. It has been a tremendous struggle for me financially but I believe in this struggle with all of my heart, mind and soul. The stations I serve by and large to a man are happy with my show and in a recent conference call, I was told they would help me in any way they could. Finding sponsorship dollars endangers its continued existence but I will fight the fight as long as I can alongside the less than 500 announcers who still can be heard on the radio. It is a noble fight.

What are we going to do about this?

Bobby Jackson

The Petition

Our goal is to collect 200,000 signatures and send on to WGBH. Please spread the word and discontinue your support until Eric Jackosn is reinstated with his current hours and Steve Schwartz is reinstated completely. Money and action talk. If you have any questions or advice please contact me – Lois Gilbert, www.JazzCorner.com, lois@jazzcorner.com

Jazz programming on WGBH-FM being scaled back, a blow to jazz fans

To the consternation of loyal listeners, WGBH-FM (89.7) is dropping jazz programming on weeknights, moving longtime host Eric Jackson to weekend duties only and eliminating Steve Schwartz’s Friday show.

The changes, which take effect July 2, amount to a serious downscaling of jazz programming on Boston radio, where Jackson and Schwartz have been mainstays for three decades, exposing their listeners to artists old and new and promoting concerts and other events that have been vital to the local jazz scene.

“Jazz on WGBH With Eric Jackson” will no longer run from 8 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, airing instead from 9 p.m. to midnight Friday through Sunday. Schwartz’s Friday evening jazz show is disappearing altogether, and he will no longer produce live performances for Jackson’s show. The hosts learned of the changes Tuesday from station managing director Phil Redo. As of mid-afternoon, WGBH had yet to release a statement confirming the new programming schedule.

Eric Jackson

Jackson, who celebrated 30 years on air last spring, was told his show was being moved — and cut back to nine hours weekly — to make room for more news and public affairs programming. “The station has been moving in that direction for a couple of years,” he said Wednesday. A month ago, he and Schwartz heard their shows would be cut one hour apiece, he added, but moving his show to weekend nights only was “a total surprise.”

To the local jazz community, “this is major,” Jackson said. “The music has always been there in the evening. To put it on the weekends at 9 p.m., when families won’t necessarily be listening together, is not the same thing. It’s a different vibe.”

Live interviews and shows featuring a single artist may no longer be tenable, he continued. “I still love doing radio, and Boston still needs jazz radio, because jazz is a major part of American culture. Not to pat myself on the back, but I think my show has been a major part of the jazz scene around here.”

Schwartz, who’s been on the local airwaves for nearly 27 years, said change was imminent a couple of years ago, when WGBH shifted its classical programming to another station. Then, “the other shoe dropped,” said Schwartz as he was told that having two jazz hosts no longer fit with WGBH’s plans.

Steve Schwartz

“It wasn’t a total surprise, but it is a loss,” Schwartz said. “The station is losing a consistent format spread across the week. And the Boston jazz community is losing an important venue for musicians to promote their events.”

The moves could also have a negative impact on WGBH membership, Schwartz added, since membership in the WGBH Jazz Club includes access to live concerts that will no longer be produced.

As news of the changes spread, many in the local jazz community reacted with shock and dismay. On Facebook, a “Save Eric in the Evening” page — a reference to the show’s former title — elicited postings ranging from sadness to calls for a protest petition directed at WGBH.

Saxophonist Ken Field noted how well-known and popular jackson has been among artists from all over the area, and the world. “Reducing his airtime is a step in the wrong direction, for people in Boston and people outside Boston,” he said. “Eric has been so supportive of not only international musicians who come to town but also local jazz musicians.”

A lot of people he knows are angered by the news, Field added, and wondering why they should continue to support WGBH if it drops shows such as these.

“That’s some tragic news,” commented pianist Danilo Perez, reached by phone in Colorado Wednesday afternoon. “In a culture where we are so much in need of hope and optimism, that’s what jazz is all about. As long as people listen to radio, it’s crucial to have jazz [featured] there.”

Beyond that, said Perez, “People like Eric and Steve love and know the music. To a listener like myself, it’s almost like having a History of Jazz class on the radio.”

The previous letters and articles and statements were just a few of many responses to this turn of events. I wanted to share with you these strong comments from Steve, Eric, and Bobby Jackson so you can try to understand what this development means to our artistic sensibilities. All of us, even if you are just readers of this blog for other reasons, you must take heed to these events as they unfold because they DO involve you. This is happening in our everyday events, not only artistically, but politically. We are losing our identities to a small group of people who are planning to control who we are and dictate their own doctrines that are taking away our country and the things we believe in. I will discuss with people who are planning to resolve some of this, but honestly, I think WGBH  has made a decision to do what they are doing anyway, but we should go with a plan to confront them. Look for updates here as a followup.

Talkin’ Jazz

It takes time to build a relationship in the music community, especially jazz.

And, that is what Joan Watson Jones has been building since 2006. It takes time to do that and how to figure out what is your place to achieve that goal.

Joan has been singing for many years, working hard at her craft. But she realizes that she needs to do more. She has followed her instincts to attempt that place she deems successful.

Let’s understand that she has tirelessly worked toward her dream as a vocalist, with two complete CDs at her credit and one complete and ready for release in a few months. She also learned a thing or two from her past experiences and that is to challenge herself vocally. That method of hard work, creativity, and finding a way to make a contribution to jazz is commendable.

Her jazz work continues as a business person, organizing and making a contribution as a radio personality. In 2006 she started ” The Jazz Room” Radio Show  on www.cyberstationusa.com.

She has done more with this opportunity to extend her credibility. Using her newfound ability to access media credentials, she looked forward to the Newport Jazz Festival and doing a story on it on her show. Since that time she has grown her audience from 250, 000 to upwards of 5-6 million.

Quite an award for starting something you love and doing it.

Another challenge she has taken on is producing a live jazz  television program ,” The Jazz Room Live” at the Acton Jazz Cafe in Acton, MA. With her background learning from the local TV access television station and later from Continental Cable she took on the opportunity to start a TV Show

In 2008, Joan offered to Gwenn Vivian, the propiertor,  the opportunity to film and document the jam sessions at The Acton Jazz Cafe . So far that has been a success story as well. With the help, partnership and encouragement of Gwenn ,  she offers the performing musicians a CD of their performances as pay, and of course, the opportunity to be exposed from exposure on her program.

Joan is just another example of how much work it takes to be a performer of any status today. Creativity and extending your artistic abilities is another way to establish yourself. Understand this, it isn’t about always being able to looking forward towards that opportunity to be a star, it’s about making sure you work hard at your craft, and by working at the craft and preparing yourself you’re always ready to accept that big next job .

Joan Watson Jones exemplifies that.

To the education front that we have been discussing in past postings, I am going to follow up in future postings as I continue to read articles and having conversations with others. The discussion I had with Jae Sinnett about ‘melody’ in jazz, and with some articles I have been reading about the subject of education in jazz from a student perspective and a building block for future audiences to jazz performances.


Let’s talk about friendship.

A dear friend of mine since we were teens passed away recently and I reflected back to those days when we found so much joy in our relationship over the years.

In our life time we have so many opportunities to join in friendship with people, and we enjoy different levels of friendships with them.

Back before technological advances changed our way of interacting with people, we took on the task of writing to them in the form  of letters sent directly through the postal service. Often these of letters were called Pen Pal Letters that enabled the letter writers to form friendships all over the world even if the responents never met. And, even when the opportunity made it possible for people to meet, friendships were bonded and lasted years.

In today’s world, with the advancement of technology, we enjoy a different way, past the Pen Pal days, to a new network of corresponence with people that join various social networks, even if they were never engaged with one aother before.

Friendships are formed at different levels, through on-line experiences between different people in faraway places, on Face Book and other kinds of outlets and the use of these services to find friends long forgotten or lost but found.

So in this new world of engagement, we  can take advantage of how we enjoy the possibilities of friendships from every source, even those close friends or those at a distance. One thing, it is something that takes time depending on your level of engagement; and important to enjoy those you chat with only for a time, because friends are not forever to enjoy their company and even if your tastes change because of political or social changes, it’s important to keep those folks close, because the bottom line is that you really don’t know how much they may be available to you when the chips are down. If those friends are true, they will be there even if they cannot be there physically, because they are your friends for life and they love you.

That’s what friends are for.













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