Backstage and Behind the Scenes with Steve Weinberger and the Clearwater Jazz Holiday
Steve Weinberger, a partner in the firm’s litigation group, jumped at the opportunity to join the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation Board of Directors. That was 11 years ago, and the start of a wonderful journey behind the scenes of the Bay Area’s world class music festival, now in its 34th year.
The Foundation is the board responsible for securing the funding and partnerships necessary to sustain the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, now a nationally and internationally recognized music festival, spanning four days every October. The event draws tens of thousands every year to Clearwater’s Coachman Park and brings a tremendous economic impact.
For Steve, the lure of the festival was always about the music. Steve recalls his dad’s early influence.
“Jazz was always playing in our house. My dad was a huge jazz enthusiast. I remember many a weekend passing through our ‘den.’ Dad would be on the couch with his eyes closed – the sounds of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond or Sarah Vaughan (three of his personal favorites) or whatever filling the room. ‘Now this is real music,’ he would say with a smile, always trying to slow me down for a listen. He had many stories of seeing some of the greats live back in New York. Although my tastes were much broader than his, we both always shared an affinity for live music. All of that has been rekindled in a new way during my time with the Jazz Holiday.”
Early on, Steve focused his efforts on enhancing the Jazz Holiday’s High Note Society, a social networking arm, consisting of individuals, businesses, jazz enthusiasts, and pure music lovers, founded as means to provide support for the festival as well as to promote music education and arts in the community.
Steve explains, “I had a vision early on of working to transform the High Note Society’s monthly meetings into live music events celebrating the amazing artists we have right in our back yard and partnering with some of the best local venues.” Those events, now occurring all over the Bay Area, attract 150-200 people a month and highlight some of the most talented local musicians.
“High Note is a really fun way to connect with other Jazz Holiday and music fans and also support the festival, music education, and local business. Steve has essentially helped to grow an impressive mini concert series at some of the best hot spots around like the Sand Pearl Resort, the Hilton [Clearwater Beach], Luna [at the Hilton Carillon Park], the Hyatt [Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa], and Café Ponte. The food and music are always top class,” says Phil Henderson, President and CEO of StarLite Cruises, Jazz Holiday Advisory Board, Tourist Development Council Member, and Jolley Trolley Board.
Steve has also helped with other education-specific initiatives over the years and is particularly proud of co-founding the Flavor of Jazz event done in connection with Ruth Eckerd Hall, which has raised thousands for education, and showcased the skills of hundreds of young musicians.
Since 2005, Steve has additionally served on the Foundation’s Executive Committee in the roles of Secretary, Vice-President, President and now immediate-past president, always helping to grow and steer the festival to new heights.
“Steve’s positive and youthful drive, and dedicated spirit over many years have truly given our non-profit foundation new life, and has led us beyond our goals! His commitment to always delivering a quality experience to the community each year is extraordinary,” says Larry Gerwig, Executive Vice-President, Creative Contractors, Inc. and past Jazz Holiday President.
“The Jazz Holiday board needed to reflect the emergence of the younger demographic in our community who have a passion for jazz and jazz education and insight into how we could expand our base of supporters. Steve was not only a source of inspiration but effective methodologies on how to achieve our goals. He has been a gift to us that keeps on giving,” adds Bill Horne, Clearwater City Manager.
For the last several years Steve’s focus and passion have been on the Jazz Holiday’s music selection.
“It has been a thrill for me to work on this process, learn the business of music, meet some of the biggest names in music, and work with some amazing people. I am particularly grateful for my time with Allon Sams [local musician and Chair of the Music Committee] and all the folks at Ruth Eckerd Hall who partner in the music selection process–some really great people.”
The future is bright for the Jazz Holiday which looks to turn more heads this October with another sensational line-up, which includes Chicago, Tower of Power, Brandi Carlile, Amos Lee, Average White Band, Paul Brown, Larry Carlton, Jane Monheit, and many, many more.
“I am really excited for the future of the Jazz Holiday. There are so many dedicated volunteers serving on the board, tirelessly working to enhance the festival from year to year. I am also moved by the board’s inspiring breadth of music education outreach. The Jazz Holiday family is truly special. I have met some wonderful, dedicated people. An amazing ride all in all.”