Jenkins commenced his writing career with the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the early 1970s. He has subsequently contributed to local, regional, national, and international publications with contributions appearing in JazzTimes, Inside Arts, Down Beat, Schwann Spectrum, Schwann Opus, Jazz Report, Jazz Forum, The Antioch Review, Attache, Jazz Education Journal, All About Jazz, and numerous other publications. Jenkins’ new media contributions have appeared in Amazon.com, NPRJazz.org, NetNoir.com, Impact247.com, and Africana.com; additionally he writes and edits his own blog The Independent Ear on his web site: www.openskyjazz.com. He has been editor of several publications, including NJSO Journal, and Lost Jazz Shrines. Jenkins is an experienced and skilled interviewer whose work has also included conducting extensive oral history interviews for the Smithsonian Institution, the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, and 651Arts.
Jenkins has collaborated with NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston on his as-told-to autobiography African Rhythms (Composed by Randy Weston, Arranged by Willard Jenkins), published by Duke University Press in 2010.
Jenkins is a contributor of two chapters in the book Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing (“How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment”), published in 2010 by Smithsonian Books to accompany the Smithsonian’s 2010 Apollo Theater 75th anniversary exhibit.
Jenkins contributed a chapter to David Baker: A Legacy in Music (Indiana University Press; 2011)
From 1979-1984 Jenkins taught jazz history at Cleveland State University. Since 2005 he has taught the online course Jazz Imagines Africa for Kent State University. He has contributed educational content to the former International Association for Jazz Education website and to the Thelonious Monk Institute’s Jazz in America website (www.jazzinamerica.org) and has lectured and facilitated workshops on several college and university campuses.
Jenkins has been a public & community radio station broadcaster and producer in Cleveland, OH; Minneapolis, MN; and since 1989 at WPFW, Pacifica Radio in Washington, DC, where he has also produced and hosted documentary programs from overseas festivals. During a temporary year living and working in New Orleans in 2008 he was a regular programmer at WWOZ. He has also contributed to XM Satellite Radio, and National Public Radio, where he has written documentary scripts, including the “Ambassador Satch” episode for the Louis Armstrong centennial radio series. In 1994 Jenkins became affiliated with Black Entertainment Television, commencing with creative consultation on its jazz programs. Since that time he has hosted, associate produced, produced, and written numerous series, specials, and documentaries for the BET Jazz and BET J channels.
Jenkins is a successful and widely recognized workshop, symposium, conference facilitator, and speaker at universities, conventions, and arts conferences across the country and internationally. He has facilitated long-range planning processes and written subsequent long-range plans for the Cleveland Orchestra, Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, and the Cleveland Education Fund. Jenkins has served on arts granting panels at the federal, regional, state, local and private foundation level.
Jenkins serves as coordinator of the performance component of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Live grant program through Arts Midwest.
Since April, 2010 Jenkins has served as a researcher/consultant for the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, NY.
In 2008 Jenkins consulted as talent buyer for the National Spinal Cord Injury Association annual fundraising event in New Orleans.
In January 2015 Willard Jenkins was appointed Artistic Director of the DC Jazz Festival (Washington, DC).
Jenkins’ work in concert and festival production, and artistic direction began in 1979 with the Northeast Ohio Jazz Society. In 1995 Jenkins was appointed artistic director of the annual Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland. His presenting and artistic direction work has also included such clients as the Smithsonian Institution and Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall. He has also served as artistic director of two annual concert series at Tribeca Performing Arts Center (New York, NY): Lost Jazz Shrines (Spring) and Jazz-in-Progress (Fall young artist series), and artistic director of the BeanTown Jazz Festival in Boston, produced by Berklee College of Music.
Jenkins was the editor and coordinator of the national Lost Jazz Shrines project which encompassed presenting organizations around the country in celebration of historic jazz venues in their community. The series at Tribeca Performing Arts Center has ranged from such historic jazz venues as Café Society, The Five Spot, Café Bohemia, Slugs, and the loft jazz scene in Lower Manhattan.
|Awards Recieved||Year Recieved|
|Jazz Awards nominee: Book of the Year (African Rhythms)||2011|
|International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (ASRSC) Award for Excellence (African Rhythms)||2011|
|Jazz Awards nominee: Lifetime Achievement||2012|
|Mid Atlantic Jazz Festival: Ronnie Wells Jazz Service Award||2013|
|Jazz Journalists Association “Jazz Hero” Award||2013|
|Recipient: Jazz Awards - Lifetime Achievement in journalism||2013|
|Boards Elected To||Year Elected|
|The Board of the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, MD.||2009|
|The Board of the Jazz Education Network (JEN)||2010|
|The Board of American Jazz Venues||2011|