Sports & Entertainment


An American Art Form Takes Virtual Center Stage with Avaya

Whoever says “Jazz isn’t cool anymore” doesn’t know about SFJAZZ. From half pipes to jazz legends such as Wynton Marsalis and Charles Lloyd, this San Francisco-based nonprofit is pushing the boundaries of this unique American art form and leading the way for a modern day jazz renaissance.

Moving from a festival to a state-of-the-art $64 million, 35,000-square-foot home, SFJAZZ is always evolving and “without the technology we couldn’t do that,” said Tom Porter, Manager, Corporate Partnerships at SFJAZZ. “We’ve had tremendous growth in the last two years since we’ve opened the center in January 2013, our membership has increased by 150%, and because of that the ability to connect with those members and the need to connect with those members and sell tickets and do all of it with a high level of customer service is critical.”

The SFJAZZ center is the nation’s largest presenter of jazz with more than 300 annual events and is the only stand-alone facility built specifically for jazz in the United States. “We have to have an engaged, quality experience with people otherwise we’ll just be like everybody else who just didn’t quite get it right,” said Donald Derheim, CEO, SFJAZZ. “[That’s why] on the Avaya side of our business, we need it to run right and run well and that’s the experience we’ve had.”

As this 31-year-old performing arts organization grows and expands, it knows the past is just as important as the future. “We have to be able to interact and provide that personal experience so we still retain that Jazz club feel,” said Porter. “Since the core of what we do is sharing ideas or sharing music with each other right from the artist to the audience, if we could not do those things in the way we work internally or even externally we would fail as an organization [and] one of the biggest benefits we get from our work with Avaya and the technology is that flexibility to respond to the human need.” Even a Jazz solo isn’t about playing by yourself. “[It’s] when you play with the people around you,” said Derheim. “So we want to engage the community in jazz, we want to engage each other, we want to engage our donors, we want the artists to engage with our audiences, [because] Jazz is an engagement enterprise.”


Setting the stage for innovation and quality, Porter said, “We would like to take our education and take our programming well beyond the walls out to people via the internet and via technology so Avaya and their solutions in terms of communications can help us do that.” From virtual jam sessions to mobile learning environments, “We need to be where we have that opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done before,” said Derheim. “I don’t think that the user manual is going to cover everything we’re going to do with the Avaya equipment. [This technology is] really the backbone of how [people are] going to hear, learn, see, feel, [and] believe in Jazz in the future.”



Founded in 1983, SFJAZZ presents the greatest names in jazz, Latin and global music and nurtures the art of improvisation through its year-round concert, commissioning and education programs. The West Coast’s biggest jazz presenter serves over 200,000 fans and students every year and has several award-winning resident jazz ensembles – the world renowned SFJAZZ Collective and the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars.

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