Why Jazz is the Music of Movement Building

Why Jazz is the Music of Movement Building


If you’ve joined one of our informational calls to learn more about Cycle 3 of Move to End Violence, you undoubtedly heard us talk about the ideal Movement Maker as a talented artist in a Jazz Ensemble.

I credit Beckie Masaki and a group of Move to End Violence advisory members with coming up with this imagery for our Movement Makers when we were first designing the program back in 2010. The fact that I can’t be sure exactly who came up with the concept but remember a group of folks standing together with Beckie in animated conversation, riffing off each other’s ideas, is exactly why I love the metaphor so much.

Listen to the way this jazz ensemble improvises together to create something extraordinary and beyond that which any one person could have created alone.  While I am no expert, here is what I’ve come to learn about jazz:  it is an incredible collaboration  – a conversation – between artists.  Each artist is a brilliant musician in her own right with the talent to solo and the courage to improvise. She is not constrained by the binds of perfectionism nor does she hold tight to a script of how things should go. She is willing to take risks and try something new. Equally importantly, she has the humility to gracefully share the space with her collaborators. To listen attentively as they step up with their solos, to jump in spontaneously to back them up and to pick up that thread and run with it. To delight – not resist – when they pick up on her solo and take it somewhere she could not have previously imagined. She joyfully embraces the magic that can only come from collaboration.

At Move to End Violence, we believe that innovation happens between people. That the development of new ideas is a generative, dynamic phenomenon. We try to create the conditions for this magic to happen by selecting visionary leaders for the program who are genuinely excited to build with others. This requires enough confidence to believe that you have something extraordinary to offer and enough humility to bring your ideas into the room without attachment and with the deep belief that together we can create something that would have been impossible alone. It requires an orientation towards creating something bigger than ourselves and creating a new way – a third way – forward together. And it requires a willingness to just play. To experiment. To fail spectacularly and try again without the judgment for yourself or others that shuts creativity and risk taking down.

In Jazz, and in Move to End Violence, the brilliance happens when extraordinarily talented individuals come together and riff off of one another, creating something that was never before possible. We think this is what networked movement leadership looks like. If this resonates with you, apply to be a Movement Maker and let’s jam.

Jackie Payne
Jackie Payne
GALvanize USA

Jackie Payne served as the Director of Move to End Violence from its inception until February 2018. A lawyer and policy advocate with 20 years of experience working to affect social change, Jackie brings an intersectional and cross-movement lens to her gender justice work. She recently founded GALvanize USA which creates safe, supportive opportunities for busy women who want a kinder, more respectful way to figure out how to make a real difference in our communities and our country. Learn More

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