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Meet Karen Gordon of Garden City Jazz in Augusta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Gordon.

Karen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started my initial business, Garden City Jazz, back in 2003, because I had a great partnership with The City of Augusta in producing and promoting Candlelight Jazz, a small concert series during the summer. That partnership provided an opportunity for us to promote jazz performance and education by featuring local bands and school groups. I also wanted to learn more about concert and event production, so that I could help my brother, Wycliffe Gordon, with any concerts he would produce while he was in town.

As I grew my business, a welcomed side effect was increased involvement in community service. More accurately, I would imagine that my business grew as a direct result of my service to the arts community. My degree is in public relations, so I’m well aware that relationships consistently outweigh commercials. I hired other performing artists as often as I booked my own band, we built a team of loyal volunteers and music lovers, we held ourselves and other artists to a higher standard, and set out to deliver the best musical experiences we could.

Over the course of ten years, the Garden City Jazz team promoted several mainstage performances, an annual Masters Week block party, a full complement of arts events over Labor Day Jazz Weekend, a quarterly magazine, and myriad concert series. The power of music and the arts have opened many doors for me. Through a variety of endeavors, and inspired by my closely-knit family, I work to motivate the next generation of artists to think outside the box and take their place as creators of culture, keepers of the flame, and leaders of community.

The past five years have been spent developing Gordon Music Group into a platform through which creative collaborations are conceived, birthed, and developed. From incubating POP-UP AUGUSTA! (a secret supper club that showcases local chefs, performing artists, and visual artists utilizing non-traditional venues), to underwriting OPERATION CLEAN CITY CONCERT SERIES (a concert series focusing on downtown Augusta venues and musicians with the purpose of bringing attention to and promoting pride in citizen-led beautification efforts for the city), to building GROWING AUGUSTA: ARTS, AGRICULTURE, AGENCY (a project pairing creatives with farmers and hobby growers to convert blighted and vacant lots to creative spaces and edible landscapes), our team is engaging and encouraging other artists to try their hand at community building.

Visual artists, elected officials, dancers, public administrators, economic development agencies, musicians, religious leaders, educators, and philanthropists; are welcomed to have a seat at OUR table as we seek to change our community’s landscape in a transformative and sustainable way.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I could write an encyclopedia on what NOT to do in building a life as a full-time musician because I’ve made just about every mistake possible to get to this place. This is also why I’m so adamant about helping younger artists who are putting in work – because if you’re in a boat, and you’re rowing toward the shore, then I’ll jump in and grab an oar. But if you’re just chillin, then I’m gonna grab a beverage and chill, too.

I’ve had significant struggles as well as victories. I am grateful for them all. But I’ve learned some invaluable lessons though. Mostly, the importance (& methods) of developing strong relationships, discovering underused resources in the arts community, and devising solutions to simple and complex issues – onstage and behind the scenes.

I still make mistakes, ask tons of questions, and I remain humble and teachable.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I am the Empress of Cool, a serial collaborator. I want everyone to win and for lives to be changed, through connecting diverse populations and amplifying creative voices. I invite others to join me  – it all starts with open and honest conversation. Let’s talk about it over a beverage. I got you.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My fave childhood memory is of my brother, Wycliffe, and I singing duets at the piano during our teens while we were supposed to be practicing for our piano lessons. We would sing everything from pop and R&B tunes to hymns and Christmas songs.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Rhian Swain (both purple dress photo and piano photo)

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1 Comment

  1. Michael Aiken

    January 10, 2020 at 2:37 am

    The Bestest of the Bestest! No, I’m not fishing for gig…Haha. She is the brightest light there is in the area. We all adore the woman. For the record, her skill set (being able to successfully pull off many different events over and over) is the Absolute Rarest. I’ve met many people through the years, who think they can…One in a million can Actually Do It! Karen Gordon is that One-In-A-Million! 👏👏🎶💪❤️

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