What it Means to be a Leader in Our Community by Steve Weinberger

Steve Weinberger
Class of ‘03
CEO of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation




With the 2017 Clearwater Jazz Holiday lineup out and hype building around our 38th year, I am thankful for this opportunity to share a few updates about the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation and also, at the request of LP, a few tidbits that have helped me manage, steer, and grow the organization.

For those not as familiar, Clearwater Jazz Holiday is a four day and night music festival which occurs the third week of every October on the waterfront in beautiful Coachman Park. It has grown to be one of the Bay Area’s signature events with nearly a 40-year tradition of world-class performances and sustained cultural and economic impact for the region.

The festival has a rich jazz heritage and continues to feature incredible jazz musicians. It’s modern platform also introduces many other genres such as blues, soul, funk, Americana, folk, and rock increasing awareness, visits to the destination, and offering something for everyone. The growth and impact have inspired a vast community of support which fuel a year-round presence of activities, events, performances, and programs. In addition to producing the festival, the Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, manages and oversees these initiatives.

Community, education, and outreach are fundamental to the mission and are among the special ingredients contributing to a unique appeal. Here’s a quick synopsis of some initiatives inspiring music appreciation, creating learning experiences, opening doors, and enriching lives.


History of Jazz Education Outreach Program – Interactive, musical presentation offered to local schools at no cost covering the culture, history, and feel of jazz and its evolution as a unique, American art form

Young Lions Jazz Master Sessions – Now in its second year, a one-of-kind instructional experience connecting jazz students with university jazz educators and local professionals

My Journey with Jazz Program – New in 2017, a music mentoring program delivering a meaningful experience to after-school / summer programs in underserved communities

Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa Collaboration – Unique, music therapy/education experience for patients and their families with a related summer camp tie-in, new in 2017

United Way’s Operation Graduate – Summer Workshop – Annual workshop inspiring students to volunteer and make a difference in their communities

Special Funding

Scholarships – CJH funds two annual Pinellas Education Foundation scholarships to graduating seniors with backgrounds and interest in music

Tuition Assistance – Funding for students to participate in Ruth Eckerd Hall’s elite youth jazz program with exciting performance opportunities

Support for Schools – Financial support to local middle school band programs/ensembles, area high school bands partnering with the CJH School-Give-Back fundraising program, and schools participating in the Young Lions Jazz Master Sessions – support helps schools purchase instruments and sheet music and participate in competitions

Learning Experiences

Unique, event-based opportunities – Collaborations with education partners such as The Art Institute of Tampa and St. Petersburg College are creating exciting learning opportunities for students to participate in all facets of event production and learn the business of music

Performance opportunities – CJH is known for showcasing/promoting local, talented musicians, creating opportunities for them to learn, build confidence, and develop fans

We are especially proud of the History of Jazz Education Outreach Program which has reached over 15,000 students in six years including young people whose ability to participate would otherwise be limited by geography, economics or disability. For example, we have expanded the Program’s reach to such groups as the Clearwater Neighborhood Family Center (Greenwood Neighborhood), Nina Harris Exceptional Education Center, Paul B. Stevens Exceptional Student Center, Pace School for Girls, and Academy Prep in St. Petersburg, to name a few. We also plan to expand the Program this year to Bay Area hospitals and adult (and independent) living facilities. The Program experience is also provided each year to the general public at no cost at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater.

I have learned quite a bit during my years with the Foundation – about the business of music, management, marketing, public relations, fundraising, the nonprofit world, local government … the list goes on and on. It has been exciting and a dream to help grow the festival and annual activities. Amidst all the goings on, at the core, relationships and interpersonal dealings are key.

A vast community of support from the public, private and nonprofit sectors including hundreds of volunteers is integral to the growth and success, and consequently, requires vigorous attention. Anytime you have that many passionate people involved in a business or cause, a special kind of patience and open mindedness is critical to fostering and promoting positive engagement and achieving goals. Over the years, I have worked very hard at being a good listener and remaining open to considering new ideas and trying new things. I also work to refrain from knee-jerk reactions to new ideas and points of view – still not always easy to do.

These are not novel concepts but perhaps you are reading this amidst a challenge in your world that will at the very least remind you to pause and take a breath … and most of all, I have found that practicing a calm demeanor and being positive has tremendously helped me in my leadership role.

P.S. SAVE THE DATES for Clearwater Jazz Holiday October 19-22, 2017 and check out the lineup at www.clearwaterjazz.com.