Or­lando’s Clarence Otis to lead Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter

Orlando Sentinel - - People & Arts - By Matthew J. Palm mpalm@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com

Clarence Otis, the Or­lando res­i­dent who for­merly chaired Dar­den Restau­rants, will be­come chair­man of the board for Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter this Septem­ber.

In his new role, Otis will work closely with the board, as well as man­ag­ing and artis­tic di­rec­tor Wyn­ton Marsalis, on strat­egy, pol­icy and fundrais­ing, while cul­ti­vat­ing an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the art form.

A mem­ber of the board since 2012 and its cur­rent trea­surer, Otis said he was “deeply hon­ored.”

Al­though based in New York, home of the iconic per­form­ing-arts venue, Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter has a na­tional reach. The pro­gram of­fers livestream­s and sup­ports mu­si­cal and ed­u­ca­tional ef­forts around the coun­try.

Lo­cally, Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter part­ners with the Dr. Phillips Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts on a re­gional high-school band competitio­n called Es­sen­tially Elling­ton. Named for jazz great Duke Elling­ton, the con­test sends the win­ner of a lo­cal con­test pre­sented by the arts cen­ter to com­pete in New York.

The Dr. Phillips Cen­ter also presents WeBOP, an early child­hood jazz-education pro­gram that was cre­ated by Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter. And the New York pro­gram helped the cen­ter form its own jazz or­ches­tra, which presents reg­u­lar con­cert sea­sons here.

Otis and his wife, Jac­que­line Bradley, are long­time sup­port­ers of the arts. Be­fore he stepped down as Dar­den CEO in 2014, Otis se­cured a $5 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion from the restau­rant com­pany for the arts cen­ter. He also as­sisted with two six-fig­ure gifts from Dar­den in 2004 and 2005 re­spec­tively, an arts-cen­ter spokes­woman said.

In 2010, Otis was awarded the BCA

Lead­er­ship Award from the Busi­ness Com­mit­tee for the Arts, a di­vi­sion of the Amer­i­cans for the Arts non­profit ad­vo­cacy group.

“What a well-de­served award,” said Dr. Phillips Cen­ter pres­i­dent Kathy Rams­berger at the time, cit­ing the im­por­tance of Dar­den’s sup­port. “Dar­den’s $5 mil­lion gift to the cen­ter was a cat­a­lyst to make this project a re­al­ity.”

While lead­ing Dar­den, the com­pany also sup­ported the Or­lando Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra, Or­lando Bal­let, Or­lando

Shakes, Or­lando Reper­tory The­atre, the Men­nello Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art and the Zora Neale Hurston Festival, where Otis served as pres­i­dent.

A grad­u­ate of Wil­liams Col­lege in Mas­sachusetts, Otis earned a law de­gree from Stan­ford Univer­sity in 1980 and prac­ticed law in New York City be­fore be­gin­ning his busi­ness ca­reer. He is cur­rently lead di­rec­tor of the board of Ver­i­zon Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Along­side busi­ness in­ter­ests, art has al­ways been im­por­tant to Otis and his wife. Pas­sion­ate col­lec­tors of work by African Amer­i­can and other African Di­as­pora artists, por­tions of their col­lec­tion have been shown at lo­cal mu­se­ums.

In April, Otis and Bradley re­ceived Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter’s 2020 Ed Bradley lead­er­ship award.

Marsalis praised Otis for fight­ing chal­lenges brought by coro­n­avirus.

In a state­ment, Otis pointed out that “among its many achieve­ments, Jazz at Lin­coln Cen­ter was one of the first arts or­ga­ni­za­tions to swiftly shift its fo­cus to dig­i­tal me­dia dur­ing the cur­rent pan­demic in or­der to con­tinue pro­vid­ing the heal­ing power of jazz.”

“He brings a pas­sion that is vi­tal to the suc­cess of our mission,” said Marsalis, “to bur­nish the sto­ried his­tory of jazz, to par­tic­i­pate in its pow­er­ful present, and to en­sure a vi­brant, mean­ing­ful fu­ture with new stars who can ex­cite and en­gage au­di­ences across the globe.”


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