Missing Jazz

I’d like to start with reflections from Gregg Miller, Centrum’s Program Manager for Jazz (Choro and Chamber Music).  The multi-talented program manager/construction worker (I could go on) has been instrumental – pun TOTALLY  intended – in the renovation of Centrum buildings over the past few months, in between his musical managerial duties.  Gregg was happy to share this letter he sent out to Jazz Port Townsend participants last week.

Today was to have been the first full day of Jazz Port Townsend, 2020. Right now, everyone would be in their master classes, with afternoon combo and vocal sessions starting soon. It’s a beautiful day—sunny and 79 degrees. Out my office window I can see just a few cars and even fewer people. Ordinarily there would be music pouring out of every open window, but the park is strangely quiet. Any other year I’d still be recovering from a hectic day yesterday with everyone arriving, the buzz of the first group meeting where all the faculty are introduced, and then a late night with John and I forming all the combos. Today is the day that all your names on my computer turn into real people—you. The day when 11 months of planning, contracts, emails, phone calls, reservations, plane tickets, charter busses, rental cars, advertisements, housing assignments, meal counts, amps, drum sets, PA systems, tickets . . . . all that stuff turns into music.

I’m lucky to have this job. I get to meet a lot of interesting people and it’s gratifying to feel I’m helping make the world a better place. Even so, every job has its challenges. There can be times, when the daylight hours are shorter and the 100-year-old window in my office rattles in the wind, that the day when you all arrive and the music begins seems far away. But it always comes. In my 22 years here it has always come. In particular, it always comes this week. Even though we all know why this year is different, I can’t help feeling wistful and unfulfilled. I miss you.

People often ask me what my job is like, or why I do what I do. All the stuff I mentioned is a lot of what I do, but it’s not why I do it. Seeing all the returning faculty and participants is great. Watching the faculty greeting colleagues they’ve played, eaten and travelled with over the years is fun, but that’s not really why.  The why involves you, and it only happens when you’re here. I’ve seen it happen many times, but I’ll tell you about one time in particular. At the end of the opening meeting on Sunday night the Wheeler Theater was full of excitement and the sound level was high. I was on the crowded stage answering questions and was having trouble hearing. Behind me someone was playing the piano and I turned around to ask them to please play quieter. What I saw was a participant who was probably 15 years old sitting beside a faculty member, who was demonstrating some chord voicings. It was easy to see on the participant’s face that the faculty member was their musical hero, and they couldn’t believe this icon was sitting right there, talking directly to them. I just savored the scene for a few moments, then turned back around and left them to it.

So that’s what I really miss. I miss watching you have that kind of experience. It’s hard to know when, but it will happen again. It has to. When it does, I’ll be here on the front porch to greet you. In the meantime, we’re working hard to develop online  content you can enjoy and benefit from. You’ll hear more about that soon.

Please be well and be safe. We must all be careful and smart to beat this virus so we can see each other soon.

Warmest wishes from Centrum,

Gregg Miller

Jazz Program Manager

Last week was a first for Port Townsend Writers’ Conference for a couple of reasons.  This year introduced Centrum’s new Writers’ Conference Program Manager, George Marie, who welcomed overseas participants as well as those from around the US – for Centrum’s first online Writers’ Conference.  Writers and instructors gathered for classes and readings from the intamacy of their homes, and although they couldn’t muster for pie and whiskey in person – a celebratory tradition on the last night of the Conference – keypad tappings and pens flowed furiously and the week thrived on inspiration and camaraderie.

Below is a poem by Susan Alexander, a frequent Writers’ Conference participant from British Columbia and last year’s winner of the $20K Mitchell Prize for poetry that is awarded to an emerging Canadian poet every other year.


This year’s signature Gala and Auction will take place on October 17 as a livestreamed event from cyber space!  A necessary departure from our usual in person event held at the Fort Worden Commons – the Gala will be streamed in the company of jazz legend John Clayton and a very special guest to be announced later.
However, you don’t need to wait until October to get involved in Gala related activities!

Centrum Scholarship Fund Campaign

Centrum workshops is the most important part of our annual Gala and Auction, so we’ve startws early with this special crowd-funding effort to make sure we reach our goal! Your donation, of any size, will help transform lives through the arts in 2021, and it’s so easy to do: go to the Centrum Scholarship Fund Campaign webpage, click on Make a Donation, complete the form, hit submit, and know that you’ve just made a difference. Share the link with your friends, or click on Get Involved to learn how you can join the fun by creating your own Fundraiser page in just 2 easy steps!

Auction item donations

We are requesting donations to the auction for another few weeks. Proceeds from the auction will directly assist hundreds of participants to attend Centrum workshops who may otherwise miss out on life-changing arts experiences.  Please click on the link for more information and donation details on the Gala website and thank you for your generosity.
Watch this space for more Northern Lights Gala & Auction details in the coming weeks!

Thanks for listening and stay safe

See you through the fence again soon!

Claire Africa
Volunteer Coordinator

If you have any comments or questions please don’t hesitate to email


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