Jazz at Lincoln Center is more than just a culture

Written by By Jacqueline Seng For CNN

It’s night five of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Summer Season — and this year’s theme is “Dreams Come True” — at night four is “At Home in New York.” What better place to host a performance than one of New York’s most iconic institutions, the Lincoln Center?

“So many people can celebrate, and that’s one of the messages in this show: you can celebrate as a community.” — Meredith Sussman, vocalist and pianist

Meredith Sussman is a Jazz at Lincoln Center pianist and vocalist who’s one of this year’s star performers, taking the stage at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Summer Season in Harlem. Just don’t ask her to tell you what the jazz community is like in New York City.

All she’ll say is that it’s New York City – a “city that worships in [its] art, celebrates in its art.”

In fact, it’s that ability to celebrate – and you can hear her say that in these photos – that comes from living in the city, whether in Harlem or elsewhere.

“We have to be celebrating in New York to stay alive. Not only in the art but in the culture,” she says.

Jazz at Lincoln Center “Live!”

Jazz at Lincoln Center is about many things. And not just the culture. “Jazz at Lincoln Center’s live!” music subscription series may be why it’s become one of the most popular events in New York.

But perhaps more important, it’s about reinventing the history and reinterpreting the music.

“The way we keep reinventing our jazz — which is going to continue for decades to come, but the way we see it going to be — is that music will change and you’ll see different things.”

According to Sussman, music isn’t stagnant. “I find it incredible when people take that ‘I always knew’ or ‘I never knew’ [lie]. It means they were not more cognizant. You know how people have a voice? They did. But then it’s not just a voice, it becomes a symphony. It becomes a dance. It becomes a vision. That is an incredible thing.”

Another part of her image is the way she chooses to look. “I think I look a little different. And I’ve always changed styles. It’s all artistic, I’ve always changed. I know what I’m doing.”

She’s going through a shift too, in her 30s. And the person who’s the best person to ask about how she might be able to balance professional with personal life is her mother.

“My mother is very smart, she is not like any other mother,” Sussman says. “She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever met. I know when she talks I’m not going to listen to her. But then I’m a mom too, so I can relate. I have kids, I know how we deal with this.”

“My mother is also a single woman, [and] our relationship is very strong because she’s been raising us on her own. She’s not been married. It’s made us stronger. We’re an even stronger family, because we are in this journey together.”

It sounds like she has great advice to pass on to other mothers, but perhaps more than anything she’s an inspiration.

And what better place to celebrate than the city she’s grown up in?

“The art is everywhere. It’s not just on the street corner, it’s everywhere,” she says. “The people are great, the vibes are amazing.”

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