Breaking boundaries in festival programming

Gendered and cultural transformations at the JazzFest Berlin.

Nora Leidinger- University of Groningen, Author
Kristin McGee- University of Groningen, Author


jazz impresario, jazz programmer, jazzfest berlin, gender, jazz festival, Nadin Deventer, Joachim-Ernst Berendt

In Germany, the modern jazz festival programmer descended from earlier multifaceted roles established during the interwar and war periods as cultivated by both German and international jazz critics, record collectors, and impresarios. While impresarios historically occupied multiple roles as fans, critics, and producers; they often inhabited the quintessential cosmopolitan role of (white) male jazz critic and discoverer of Black musical creativity. This article examines the impact of the legacy of this archetype in the German context, with the case study of JazzFest Berlin. In particular, we trace the particular contours of Joachim-Ernst Berendt’s (1922–2000) embodied enactment of masculinity within the postwar German jazz festival world, beginning with the seminal founder of the JazzFest Berlin. Drawing on feminist initiatives of the first American women jazz organizers, we compare this female-centric legacy with the particular style and ideologies created by Berliner Jazztage programmer Nadin Deventer, the first female programmer of this historic festival, who brings an innovative and socially engaged approach, in part by staging less constrained gender expectations. Through interviews and an examination of publications, programme reviews, and more, we reveal how the figure of the jazz impresario has been disrupted by increased attention to the roles of professional women programmers who consciously embrace diverse competencies and seek greater recognition of the intersectional barriers for women, women of colour, and foreigners within the German jazz scene.