With the right outlook, nonprofits should be able to provide commissioned artists not with a rigid set of expectations, but a nexus and an impetus to create art on their own terms and with their own idiosyncrasies. SFJazz showed me the power of that potential. With the infinitude of the universe for inspiration, how could musicians find the act of being commissioned anything but liberating?
I am certain that without my class on Latin American racial dynamics, I would have been unable to appreciate the full implications of projects like these; similarly, without my seminar about 1950s jazz, I couldn't have put Charles’s boundary-pushing music in its proper context. But without the experience of that live performance in April 2017, my academic perspective on the music would’ve remained just that—academic. The Mondavi Center made it personal.