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Inaugural Key of She Jazz Conference 2019

Key of She, PA

PO Box 132, Merion Station, PA 19066, USA
Director: Olivia Hughart
Category: Community Event
Award: Honorable Mention, 2020

Project Description

The purpose of the Key of She Jazz Conference was to create an opportunity for girls and young women in jazz — along with their bandmates, band directors, parents, fellow musicians and supporters — to connect, be recognized and encouraged, and celebrate women in jazz.

The idea was the brainchild of (then) Lower Merion High School senior & saxophonist Olivia Hughart who saw first-hand that women in jazz are under-represented and often missing from history books. As a jazz musician herself, Olivia recognized the need for girls to find space to grow as jazz musicians, to be encouraged to keep going, and to see and hear about women in jazz.

This conference was an outgrowth of an ensemble Olivia founded in 7th grade called “Key of She.” Music educator, Dr. Jenny Neff, quickly agreed to be a mentor as she saw the need and understood the nuanced differences between how girls and boys learned and derived confidence and encouragement in the school ensemble. The first Key of She Jazz group connected middle school girls in jazz within their school district. It gave this small group of girls a chance to discover and learn more about their collective interest and passion for the art form. The group continues to this day, and has grown and evolved.

Target Audience

The target audience included girls in music from ages 12-21 (middle school through college), as well as peer musicians (boys included), educators, parents, and musicians interested in seeing women in jazz brought to the forefront. The diverse audience came from the greater Philadelphia area as well as Camden, NJ, and as far away as New York and Baltimore, MD, and included approximately 200 musicians not only in jazz but in orchestra and beyond.

Overview of planning and execution process for this project

Olivia first approached Dr. Neff with the idea for a conference in June 2018; however, due to a pending job transition, the conversation did not resume again until late August/early September. From there, the timeline accelerated to be able to create a full conference by April 27, 2019.

September – October 2018: Initial meetings and concepts, sketch of conference design

October-November: Fundraising discussions, finding a “fiscal sponsor” to enable nonprofit fundraising (rather than fundraising in Olivia’s name)

November – December: Networking with musicians and supporters and identifying potential performers

December- January: continuing to fundraise; writing a proposal page to solicit corporate sponsors; printing Save the Date postcards to be distributed widely to band directors

January-February: creating an Eventbrite for registration, creating social media pages to being promotional blitz, conducting phone meetings with experts in Arts marketing

February-March: ordering materials for the conference, soliciting profiles for the program book, finalizing schedules and sessions, continuing PR for Eventbrite enrollment, continuing social media campaigns, creating signage, wayfinding, welcome posters and banners, walking through event space and ensuring the UArts School of Music was fully in the loop.

April 27, 2019 Conference from 12 – 5 p.m.

Sponsors/charities/volunteers/ other groups involved in the project and the benefits to each.

We were able to secure corporate sponsorships to help us fund the event as well as in-kind sponsors who donated time, resources, and work. Music sponsors included Conn-Selmer Education (helped fund the Student track), and Zeswitz Music (helped fund the Educator track), ArtsVue Marketing (provided funding as well as social media design help), EitzenCreative (provided in-kind support for logo design, web design, posters, program book, and more), PREIT (a corporate sponsor with no derived benefit directly for them), and above all, University of the Arts, which hosted the event and enabled staff and faculty to participate, as well as sponsoring the closing reception.

Community Impact

The feedback from this event was overwhelmingly positive from the attendees to the performers to others in the jazz community in Philadelphia who were aware of the event. There seems to be recognition that more needs to be done to encourage girls to join jazz bands.

Many in the community commented that this was an issue especially in the area of jazz music that was noticed but not necessarily addressed in such an intentional way. The conference provided the space for girls and young women in jazz to feel supported and encouraged, as well as ways opportunities to learn new tools to take back to their schools and communities.

The jazz performers also applauded the event and said it very much needed and appreciated in the region. The event has sparked many discussions in the community about women in jazz.

Overall budget


Specific Budget Breakdown

  1. $ 7000 in performer fees
  2. $ 2000 in design/printing/media fees
  3. $ 2000 in attendee materials
  4. $1500 in reception cost
  5. Additional faculty were provided by UArts, but not part of the overall budget.

New or recurring project?


How did you update/change this project from its previous occurrence?

This was the inaugural event. We look forward to planning it for 2020 with updates/changes.

Challenges/obstacles that were encountered

Fundraising was a challenge — We implemented a GoFundMe and also sourced individual corporate funds. Wrote a 2-page promo document for use with prospects
Media/promotion was a challenge — with only 2-3 of us focused on the project it was challenging to keep the campaign going and keep promotion strong. We just made it part of every week and as the date approached, did more on a daily basis to promote.

Event registration was a challenge — knowing how many seats to open up, knowing how complex or simple to make the registration form, and then not knowing what actual numbers would be like as compared to the registrations

Volunteers were a challenge. We need to recruit more people to volunteer earlier on and make sure we have a firm list of committed volunteers. Luckily, we had family members and friends who came to help us because we put them to work for the entire day.

The day of the event, the timing was a challenge. The opening session ran longer than expected and so the schedule had to be adjusted in the moment, which left less time than planned for students to play instruments. We now know to leave more time for changing between sessions and are hoping to plan a longer day to allow for the playing time and interaction our attendees hoped for.

Overall, the day was a success for this inaugural event. And we now have feedback and lessons learned that we are implementing in the planning for year two.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

The number of attendees and groups performing that day were evidence of not only the success of the event, but also the need for this type of event that had not been done before.

We also received feedback from attendees using a written feedback form, as well as discussions with band directors, jazz artists, and private teachers in the area.

Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?

We are happy to help groups that want to do something similar. We hope someday to be a standalone nonprofit that can offer resources for others

General advice — find a partner (a la UArts) with the major resources and incentive to help get this off the ground. There is much to be gained from all involved. Start planning early. Network network network to source jazz experts. Involve as many women in jazz as you can. We found the most criticism when sessions were run only by the guys — not because they weren’t good, but because the day was about representation.

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