Chaka Khan
Chaka Khan
Photo by Timothy Fielding

Women Make Up Half of the Lineup at Jazz in the Gardens

At a time when women's voices are being heard more loudly than they have in decades, Jazz in the Gardens Music Fest is giving female artists an equal platform on the stage. This year's lineup includes performers ranging from Chaka Khan to Salt-N-Pepa.

New Times for the past couple of years has covered the lack of gender diversity at festival after festival after festival. Now, at long last, it appears that in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, progress is being made in amplifying the voices of women both on and off the stage.

Earlier this month, New Times lauded Rolling Loud's improved inclusivity. Though women make up only 10 percent of this year's lineup at the hip-hop festival, it's a major improvement over last year, when only two female artists were represented. This year's Jazz in the Gardens has trounced its regional competition in the mission to bring gender parity.

AEG Events producer Scott Gartner, who played a significant part in booking the acts for the festival's 13th-annual run, says Jazz in the Gardens organizers have always been cognizant of putting together a diverse lineup. "We try to bring an even mix," he says. "Some years, we're more successful than others. This year, I think we really came through."

Gartner considers budget, artist availability, and prior festival appearances when he books acts. But the most important factor, he says, is following through on the performers the audience wants to see. "We pay extremely close attention to our Facebook audience and our social media, and we often put out poll questions."

Through extensive polling, the Jazz in the Gardens team has learned that 55 to 60 percent of the fan base is female, so it has become a priority to consider what those attendees want to hear and see.

So after three years of attempts, Jazz in the Gardens finally booked singer-songwriter Anita Baker for this year's festival.

In addition to listening to the audience and striving for inclusivity, Gartner believes Jazz in the Gardens' community-centered ethos has led to the fest's long-running success.

"I think what makes Jazz in the Gardens a fairly cool event is that it's still a homegrown festival," he says. "It's all about the city of Miami Gardens. Over the years, we've actually increased the number of local businesses that are involved in the event, both behind the stage and in our vendor area. We've also given a lot of kudos to the local music scene over the years — encouraging regional bands to perform and doing tributes to everyone from Betty Wright to Sam & Dave, who all came out of the South Florida music scene. It's all about embracing the roots of this community. People seem to really respond to that."

Jazz in the Gardens. 3 p.m. Saturday, March 17, and Sunday, March 18, at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens; 305-943-8000; hardrockstadium.com. Tickets cost $80 to $244 via ticketmaster.com.

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