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Professor Patrick Harwood
Department of Communication


Professor Karen Chandler
Arts Management

Professor Karen Chandler


Linking The Foundation of Jazz to Charleston
By Lauren Santarone

"Of all the experiences I have had, jazz is what brings me back to and pulls together the three loves of my life: music, management, and research." Arts management professor Karen Chandler's pursuit of education and research through music has allowed her to share her passion with students all over the country.

Dr. Chandler grew up in Nashville, Tenn. where she was overcome by the desire to pursue a musical career. Chandler began aspirations by playing the piano at the youthful age of seven, where she spawned an infatuation for music in general.

Chandler's love of music, particularly in the instrumental and managerial aspects, led her to study at Hampton University in Virginia where

she received her bachelor's degree in music education. She continued her education at New York's Columbia University, graduating with a master's degree in music education; she then furthered her credentials at New York University by receiving her doctorate in arts and humanities.

In the midst of Chandler's first job at Saint Paul's College in Virginia, she was presented with a project that would inspire her to become involved in arts management. "In my first teaching job at Saint Paul's, I was asked to direct a concert series," she says. This request included all aspects of the show, consisting of fundraising and marketing, along with the multiple tasks involved with assembling a concert series.

Chandler's creative drive, in combination with her organization and managerial skills, allowed her to single-handedly produce a successful concert series. "I loved that and I knew I wanted to do it full time, from that point on," Chandler says.

With the idea of assembling a concert series in her mind, Chandler relocated to Washington, D.C., where she worked as an assistant professor of Arts Management at American University.

In 1999 Chandler again relocated, this time to teach at the College of Charleston and to also direct the school's prestigious Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture.

Chandler, alongside Jack McCray, a longtime Charleston journalist and jazz expert, established the Charleston Jazz Initiative in 2003. The ongoing research project documents the American jazz tradition in Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, and its widespread movement throughout the United States and Europe, in the late 19th Century. One would not consider the Charleston Jazz Initiative a typical research project; Chandler travels worldwide in order to gather the biographies and document the social history of local jazz musicians, who in effect cemented the foundation for American jazz.

Many lesser known musicians, including the children from Charleston's Jenkins Orphanage, left South Carolina and settled in New York City and other Northern cities, in hopes of establishing their musical careers. By means of oral history, this research project seeks out the interviews, stories, and anecdotes of these great musicians. The ultimate goal of the research project aims to produce a documentary detailing the conception of the Charleston jazz society and its strong influence on American jazz as a whole. Chandler says, "It's almost like a family we've established. The Charleston Jazz Initiative is all about building relationships, unlike traditional research projects. Our research is rooted in humanity, connecting with people, and creating an environment in which they are able to put forth the information that people want to know."

By constantly organizing fundraisers and other musical events, Chandler continuously demonstrates her zeal for the arts. Chandler's most recent venture, "Suite Suite Sounds on the Stern Center Grounds" raised upwards of $4,000 for the Charleston Jazz Initiative.

The countless projects Chandler has lead and endorsed in the past have led to large profits as well, in the name of music and its heritage. Chandler herself describes her life's work as a unification of research and management; a unification that has gifted her with the best personal and professional experience one could hope for in a lifetime.

In addition to her work with Charleston Jazz Initiative and other organizations, Chandler took the time to look into the lives and backgrounds of the JFK Center volunteers in Washington, D.C. Chandler's upcoming book is in titled "Curtains up on the Friends," which is to be released in May 2006. What began as a 25 page case study now stands as a much anticipated novel, based on the volunteers and their history at the JFK Center.

Chandler's dedication exceeds far beyond merely teaching classes at the College of Charleston. She is a passionate, determined woman who constantly makes a difference through her thorough work ethic.

For more information on Chandler's upcoming events, the website http://www.cofc.edu/artsmanagement/index.html