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Jazz Artists hires new executive director

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Jazz Artists hires new executive director

Over eight years, Jazz Artists of Charleston succeeded in presenting a big-band concert series at the Charleston Music Hall and organizing numerous smaller shows at a variety of venues.

It launched a small education outreach program, hosting Jac(k) Talks and exposing schoolchildren to the wonders of jazz music. And, it moved into a new space on Spring Street called the Jazz House.

JAC also has managed a special series of intimate gigs during Piccolo Spoleto Festival. And in January, it started the Charleston International Jazz Festival.

Over the summer, co-founder and executive director Leah Suarez stepped aside.

This month, JAC announced it had hired a new executive director, Mary Beth Natarajan.

“I have been following their success for a number of years and know the positive impact they have had on our community,” Natarajan said in a statement. “We want to build on all of that positive history and take the organization into a more forward-thinking and financially strategic direction so that we can provide quality programs for years to come.”

JAC board president Susan Dunn said the organization is committed to “taking JAC to the next level by enhancing jazz programs, building audiences, developing and supporting musicians, and providing jazz education to youth.”

“Mary Beth’s drive, creativity, leadership and management ability perfectly fits with our organization’s goals,” Dunn said.

Natarajan and her husband, Muni, moved to Charleston in 2009, when she took a marketing job with Blackbaud on Daniel Island. Muni Natarajan is a jazz drummer who played for Quincy Jones and Don Ho before becoming a Hindu monk and yoga practitioner.

Since their move to Charleston, the Natarajans have attended many jazz performances, she said.

In 2012, Mary Beth co-founded TEDxCharleston and started her own marketing consulting practice. Since then, she has been thinking about a deeper dive into the nonprofit world, she said. When the JAC position opened, she figured it was a perfect fit.

She said the organization has been focused mostly on presenting a great product; now she wants to develop education programming for underserved communities and to cultivate corporate partners and other supporters in an effort to expand JAC’s reach and diversify its audiences.

“We should have a giant jazz festival; I see that in our future,” she said. “With more marketing and more community outreach, we’ll be able to spread our arms wider.”

Reach Adam Parker at (843) 937-5902. Follow him at

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