SFJAZZ Means Never Having to Grow Up
Photographs by Joseph Fanvu.
Member since 1999
Jerry and Mary Street were newly retired empty nesters when they moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles in 1995. Four years later, they were SFJAZZ members.
It was Mary who introduced Jerry to jazz. She became enamored with the genre while in college and listened to every kind of jazz from Dixieland to Miles Davis. When the Streets married, they traveled across the country to hear jazz performances, and it tranformed Jerry into a jazz fan as well. Upon their move to San Francisco, Mary announced, “Let’s do jazz!” Adds Jerry, “Our contact with SFJAZZ grew out of our immersion into the culture in the San Francisco Bay Area.”
When their children eventually followed in their footsteps, the Streets began buying groups of tickets to attend concerts with their family and friends. Jerry and Mary joined Leaders Circle and the Giant Steps campaign because they wanted the new building to be realized. Jerry got involved and volunteered to make phone calls in the SFJAZZ Embarcadero offices. He also participated in a focus group and got to view the plans of the SFJAZZ Center before its public announcement.
“We were excited about the vision of Randall Kline,” says Jerry. “He had the courage to build a world-class organization. There was a commitment to expanding a musical galaxy.”
Free jazz suddenly made sense! I was able to tie-in all the things we were talking about in the lecture.
Naturally inclined to ever expanding their horizons, years into their retirement the Streets also decided to enroll together in a 16-month degree program at the California Culinary Academy. After graduation, they catered events for family, friends and acquaintances.
The Streets’ passion for continued education led them to the SFJAZZ Discover Jazz lecture series, where one of the courses made an unforgettable impression. It was the final session of a class on avant-garde, or “free” jazz, led by their favorite lecturer Cory Combs who often coordinates his talks with the season lineup. The following evening, the couple went to “Miles from India” – a live “free jazz” performance.
During the show, Jerry had an amazing feeling. “Free jazz suddenly made sense! I was able to tie-in all the things we were talking about in the lecture. The instructors were so knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and they knew how to convey information to both the entry-level listener and the jazz aficionado.
Jerry (center) with SFJAZZ staff members Cynthia Mei (left) and Tyler Wanshura (right).
“We support other arts organizations, but not as much as we do SFJAZZ,” says Jerry. “I understand that some people struggle with the idea of what jazz actually is. Some don’t accept that jazz is as broad of an art form. The programming at SFJAZZ represents a broad view of the new world. We think that’s important.”
Musical adventures continue to be rewarding for the Streets. These days, Jerry and Mary prefer the lesser-known groups, especially enjoying the Joe Henderson Lab. “Being immersed in exciting music while looking out of the floor-to-ceiling windows makes us feel we are at the very center of this really marvelous, vibrant city,” says Jerry.
The couple’s enthusiasm for learning burns as bright as ever since Jerry worked in business development for aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman and Mary directed food service for retirement communities in Los Angeles.
Today, Jerry and Mary say the concerts and lectures presented by SFJAZZ continue to enrich their lives. “We haven’t figured out what we’re going to be when we grow up,” says Jerry with a smile. “So in the meantime, we love doing this.”
This article is part the SFJAZZ Leaders Circle stories. The Leaders Circle is SFJAZZ’s premier philanthropic group of individuals who believe in the transformative power of the arts.