Dorthaan Kirk

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Headshot of a woman.

Photo by David Tallacksen, courtesy of WBGO

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2020 NEA Jazz Master

Dorthaan Kirk has been named a 2020 NEA Jazz Master for her jazz advocacy…and it’s easy to see why. For more than forty years, Dorthaan has been a major force at WBGO, Newark Public Radio—the only full-time jazz station in the New York/New Jersey area. She had been married to the brilliant jazz multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk who died tragically young. After his death, Dorthaan wondered what her next step would be when a phone call changed everything: someone was starting a jazz radio station in Newark; would she interested in coming on-board? She was, and the rest is history. Dorthaan took on the role of special events and community relations coordinator at WBGO, bringing with her creativity, tenacity, a knowledge of the music business and firm friendships with many musicians. Among the programs she spearheaded at WBGO are its Jazzathons—a live 24 hour musical fund-raiser, the WBGO art gallery which supports local artists and opens the station to the community so they might enjoy the art, and, dearest to Dorthaan’s heart, the WBGO children’s concert series where musicians have been introducing children to jazz through two generations. Dorthaan is a great talker—as she will be the first one to tell you—so it’s a podcast filled with stories, memories and love for the people who make and support jazz.