2020: A Year in Review New Challenges and Revelations

A Year in Review

In this program there was a total integration of the orchestra and the jazz performers…to have an experience such as this has opened up my students’ minds and musical ears to the myriad of possibilities that exists in today’s musical world.” -Jerry Tolson, Professor of Music, University of Louisville (Residency with CJP 2010)

February: Third Stream Residency

“Every school should be doing something like this...music is not about building barriers but about breaking them down and coming together - and this is the perfect example."

~ Daniel Nail, UofL Graduate Student, Composition and Performance

Learn more with videos!

March: CJP Education Programs

CJP's education programs converted to virtual in March, with Jazz Alive music programs running online in partnership with our 9 CPS and other school partners, our first Ultimate Virtual Jazz Camp launching in July and Saturday Jazz Academy meeting each week via Zoom since September.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, our education programs are currently employing 9 teaching artists and serving 150 students. Saturday Jazz Academy 2.0 has been connecting with students from across Chicagoland who are learning about how to play in ensembles and improve their instrument technique in the comfort of their own homes through the wonders of Zoom. Because most of our teaching artists were also teaching remotely in CJP's Jazz Alive schools, they quickly learned how to adapt their approach in this new environment. In the Fall of 2020 a new student-request session in improvisation was added to the curriculum of Saturday Jazz Academy.

CJP's commitment to education and accessibility has always pushed the envelope of standard and limitations. What we have learned during COVID-19 will impact the way we develop education opportunities far into the future.

April: Relishing Past Performances

Watch parties in April highlighted our 15 year long history of working with some of Chicago’s finest legendary musicians alongside cultivating the fiercest of ‘young lion’ talent

We had to cancel many of our performances and other live events, but we missed interacting with our audience and friends. We began hosting watch parties in April as a way of staying engaged with our community during this isolating time. We replayed and remembered Legends and Lions at Millennium Park and Scenes from Life: Cuba, and Havana Blue at the Auditorium Theater. In August we were invited to open the international broadcast of Concert for Cuba with an excerpt from Scenes from Life: Cuba. At each of these online events we grew closer to our friends and supporters, and welcomed newcomers into our CJP family.


While so many people found themselves spending more time at home, we wanted to remind people about this rare view of Chicago and her history. This spring, CJP's original cinemograph The Chicago River,  was made available to rent in addition to purchasing in DVD format. The film features beautiful historic glass plate images of the reversal of the Chicago River at the turn of the 20th century, brought to life by Orbert Davis' full orchestral composition, originally performed at Symphony Center in 2013.

In late summer The Chicago River was accepted into the The Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase. The film was screened outdoors on September 5 at Ping Tom Memorial Park and featured on their virtual festival.

Listen here to filmmakers and book publishers Richard Cahan and Micahel Williams talk to Orbert and Lauren about how they found the images that appear in the film and came to publish The Lost Panoramas which inspired Orbert's composition.


In our first attempt to mount a viral virtual challenge we received nearly thirty submissions from talented student and professional musicians that spanned four different continents, garnering over 13,000 views on Facebook and Instagram. Beyond serving as a channel for music-making and camaraderie in a time of isolation, #Orlando'sWalkChallenge also raised close to $5,000 in support of CJP's education programs. When Americans for the Arts assembled an Arts + Community Mosaic, illustrating ways member organizations used the arts to connect with their communities in response to COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, CJP's #Orlando'sWalkChallenge was features amongst many inspiring projects from arts organizations around the country.

Please enjoy and celebrate the immense talent and spirit of the Orlando's Walk Challenge Finale video. A huge thank you to all our participants and supporters who joined with us to #keepthemusicplaying!


After months of reinventing and reconstructing our annual summer camp in the virtual realm, Summer Jazz Academy launched in full force during the last two weeks of July, and it opened doors we would have never dreamed of.

Nearly 60 students from across Chicago, the United States, Europe and Latin America participated in our immersive online camp, which included ensembles and private lessons, workshops and podcasts, virtual performances, celebrity drop ins, and so much more. The silver lining of pandemic times is the elimination of the barrier of geographical distance.

Despite not being together physically this year we were able to creatively improvise to provide high quality and fun programming. Along with music instruction students enjoyed harmonica and magic workshops, learned how to paint jazz, improvise comedy, and make and play mariachi instruments! We all discovered new opportunities granted by the unique benefits of virtual learning.

The camp provided many new challenges for us, but al the new friendships made, inspiring stories told, and superb music-making made it all more than worth it.

September: Jazz Alive

This signature schools based partnership program of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic experienced a rocky beginning to the new school year, as Chicago Public Schools and parents sorted through their options for remote and in-person learning. The number of participating schools fell significantly, but those who continued did so with a deep understanding of the value Chicago Jazz Philharmonic brings to their students. Joseph Rose, Assistant Principal at Cesar Chavez Elementary School said:

"The experiences that CJP has provided our students with have changed the trajectory of their lives, whether set on a path that will lead them to a career in music or on a path to college and beyond."

Hear from Armour Elementary School Principal Katherine Cheng about the ways our Jazz Alive program has changed the lives and community at her school


JazzCast: Our First Podcast Series

This summer Orbert Davis and others at down with music legends rising starts and a civil rights icon to share the lessons learned along the way, and the moments that defined their direction. The JazzCast series features stories and industry insights in a refreshingly authentic way not readily available elsewhere, as the quest speakers relay their wisdom to aspiring artists at Chicago Jazz Philharmonic's virtual Jazz Academy youth camp.

Listen to the first two episodes featuring historian and Civil Rights activist Timuel Black and legendary trumpeter Jon Faddis here.

Meet the Staff

Ricardo Jimenez


Elena Petrovich

Marketing and Development Associate

Jordan Mandela

Program Manager

Erick Deshawn Dorris

General Manager

Mark Ingram

Producing Director

Orbert Davis

Artistic Director

Lauren Deutsch

Interim Executive Director

Looking Forward to the Future