Leah Suarez steps down as director of Jazz Artists of Charleston

Leah Suarez

After eight years at the helm of Jazz Artists of Charleston, co-founder Leah Suarez is stepping down as its executive director.

In 2007, Suarez worked with Jack McCray and local musicians to transform a long-simmering idea into a bonafide nonprofit organization that presented jazz concerts and promoted jazz history and culture.

“As a member of this community, as a jazz artist, and as a co-founder of Jazz Artists of Charleston, I could not be prouder of the accomplishments of this organization and its journey to date,” she said in a statement. “We, together, have built a foundation that our Holy City deserves.”

The organization scraped by financially during the first couple of years, surviving in large part thanks to McCray’s investment and the dedication of Suarez and participating musicians such as Charlton Singleton, Robert Lewis, Mark Sterbank and others. McCray died in November 2011, knowing that JAC had been born, but too soon to see the organization grow and improve.

That growth was nurtured largely by Suarez, who said her commitment has been “passion-filled and mission-driven.”

“Starting and growing an organization such as ours has been the experience of a lifetime,” she said. “I wholeheartedly believe in JAC’s mission and the importance of Charleston as a cradle of America’s music.”

Suarez said she will turn her attention to her career as a performer and other personal and artistic opportunities.

Chris Burgess, an Arts Management professor at the College of Charleston, will serve as interim director through the summer while the board of directors searches for Suarez’ permanent replacement.