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Jazz Arts Group of Columbus announces new Executive Director

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by Mark Subel on October 18, 2012

The Jazz Arts Group of Columbus (JAG), the nation’s acclaimed organization devoted to jazz performance and education, today announced Press Southworth as its new executive director, beginning October 18. Southworth has built a career in Columbus as one of the most respected and accomplished arts administrators and advocates. He becomes the fourth executive director since JAG’s founding 40 years ago.

JAG Board President Vince Lodico said, “In Press Southworth, we have a proven leader with the experience, knowledge and vision to attract new audiences to jazz locally and raise the Jazz Arts Group’s stature nationally. We now have the best, most dynamic team to take the Jazz Arts Group to new heights in artistic director Byron Stripling, the heart-and-soul of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, and Press Southworth, as our new chief executive. With their shared passion for music, arts education and a love of Columbus, they will make a lasting impact on our community and the jazz world.”

Southworth served as executive director of Opera Columbus from 2006 to 2011 and during that tenure was president of the Columbus Cultural Leadership Consortium for two years. He has provided volunteer leadership to nine non-profit organizations, including BalletMet and the Columbus Symphony. Among his accomplishments, Southworth helped Opera Columbus reduce its debt and become fiscally stable. Prior to his career in the arts, he was a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP for 26 years.

“I’m overjoyed that Press will be joining our JAG team,” said Byron Stripling, JAG artistic director. “His vast business expertise, his experience leading arts organizations, combined with his passion for jazz make him the perfect person for the job.”

Southworth was chosen following a national search that attracted candidates from across the United States. Since its founding in 1972, JAG has grown into a nearly $2 million a year, multifaceted organization offering performance and education to Central Ohio audiences. JAG is America’s oldest not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to producing, performing and promoting jazz.

“I am excited to be returning to the Columbus performing arts scene as executive director of the Jazz Arts Group of Columbus. Our community is fortunate to be home to the nationally recognized Columbus Jazz Orchestra, led by Byron Stripling,” Southworth said. “Columbus also benefits from JAG’s Jazz Academy, Jazz in Schools, and other educational programs. I am very proud to be associated with this outstanding organization.”

To realize the goals and ambitions for the organization, the board of directors redefined the role of executive director as a full-time employee, dedicated exclusively to the Jazz Arts Group. Based on his experience as former JAG President and board member, Dan Weiss was appointed Interim Executive Director during the search process. As the new executive director, Southworth follows founder Ray Eubanks, Mitch Swain and Bob Breithaupt, all musicians.

Recent events have catapulted JAG into the spotlight both locally and nationally. Receiving The Columbus Foundation Award in 2011 enhanced the organization’s local standing as the only performance organization to receive the award. Two consecutive Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grants for the innovative Jazz Audience Initiative study, with six major collaborating partners plus a consortium of 13 major university presenters from all over the country, have given JAG national stature and recognition.

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