Friday, November 11, 2011


Saxophonist Chris Collins
Dear Chris,

There are rumors flying around about how you landed the job as the artistic director of the Detroit Jazz Festival, and how you orchestrated Terri Pontremoli's ouster. I'm sure you've heard them. One rumor circulating is as a DJF board member you had your eye on Terri’s job for some time. You convinced your fellow board members you could do a better job. Chris, I’m not part of the DJF's inner circle so I will never know for sure what went down and why Terri was ousted.

I'm a Terri Pontremoli fan. Not because she treated me with respect and valued my insight as a jazz journalist. I liked Terri because she had vision and she brought a certain level of excitement to the jazz festival. She saved it from the bone yard, and she elevated it to international acclaim. The reality is you’re now the captain of the ship.

You’re lucky. You’re taking over after all the hard work has been done. Terri deserves credit for saving the jazz fest. You’re stepping in when the fest has international standing. Sadly, In a few years, Terri will be forgotten about and there will not be a monument to celebrate the wonderful job she did.

Unfortunately, she will be a distant memory, and you will get all the glory. That’s not right. At this point, it doesn’t matter if any of the rumors are valid. Yoi have some big shoe to fill. I don’t envy you one bit. But I’m a fair man, and hope you have a successful run. 

I hope you will book topnotch international jazz musicians. Surely, you will be partial to the local jazz musicians who’ve been complaining about being shunned when Terri ran the show. Man I hope you don’t bogged down the jazz fest with local acts.

I can’t speak for other DJF goers and supporters, but I don’t want to sit at a for four day jazz fest listening to local jazz acts I can hear nightly at Bert’s, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, Cliff Bell’s and the Jazz Café. Chris, time will tell if the DJF board made the right move, or if you sold them a bill of goods.

I wish Terri the best. Surely, she will land on her feet. And she will be snapped up by a fledgling jazz festival and do for it what she did for the DJF.

I wish you the best. I hope you have the vision, drive, and commitment to grow the DJF. I’m going to be watching you like a hawk. If you succeed, which I have my fingers cross you will do, I’m going to praise you as I did Terri. And if you stink up the place, I’m going to be on your case big time.

Chris, you deserve a fair shot. Terri got one and I’m sure there were people who questioned her abilities. Terri proved them wrong. Now you have to prove yourself.

Best wishes,
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