American Jazz Museum Names Executive Director

The American Jazz Museum Board of Directors has named Rashida Phillips as the Museum’s executive director, beginning January, 2020. Phillips, an active performer and jazz vocalist, will be leaving her post as senior director, community ventures at the Old Town School of Folk Music, in Chicago, Ill., where she oversees the school’s community-based education programs.

Phillips was born and raised in St. Louis. Her previous experience includes director of education and youth initiatives at the Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, the Merit School of Music, and the Chicago Children’s Museum. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and a Master’s in Jazz Studies from Rutgers University.

“The search committee conducted a thorough and thoughtful process that engaged more than 20 candidates from across the country,” said Niki Lee Donawa, search committee chair. “Ms. Phillips was selected based upon her unique skills and experience that we believe will lead the American Jazz Museum into the future. We are energized by her arts, culture, community engagement and broad educational programming experience and are excited to introduce her to the community.”

“I believe all the roads of my life’s journey have led me to the American Jazz Museum,” said Phillips. “My professional career really began at the Institute of Jazz Studies in the Mary Lou Williams Archive and with the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, where I developed my appreciation for the worldwide contributions of jazz music and preservation of precious jazz artifacts. I’m excited to work with the board, staff and community to heighten the status of the American Jazz Museum into a world-renowned premier institution. I’ll be interested in listening with a keen ear to all of our stakeholders to discover the opportunities and challenges that have come along the way in considering next steps for a more fiscally sustainable and vibrant future.”

Ralph Caro, who has served in the interim executive director position since March 2019, will assist Phillips with the transition. Under Caro’s leadership, the Museum grew to a fully staffed operation, increased areas of earned revenue by 5%, and established new relationships with IMKC Clothing Co., Black Vine Worldwide Media Group, LLC., and many others.

“We owe Ralph a debt of gratitude for providing this community treasure with a steady hand of leadership at this pivotal time in its history,” said board chair Eugene Agee. “Ralph took seriously the gravity of his role as steward and preservationist of Kansas City Jazz and the American Jazz artifacts in our collections. We are sincerely grateful for his service. He leaves us in a good place.”

The Museum’s Board of Directors worked with New York-based search firm Harris Rand Lusk, whose extensive list of clients include The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, for the candidate recruitment and selection process.