Board and Staff

In 2012, the SSJF was re-organized to include an Advisory Board. The role of the SSJF Advisory Board is to raise the necessary funds to produce the event, volunteer at the festival and support overall festival production.

Advisory Board

Ken Jones, Chair
Gary Wood, Vice Chair
Rodney Whitaker, Artistic Director
Beth Cafagna
Susan Anderson
Mike Eyia
David Gift
Paulette Hatchett
Catherine Hurth
Pat McPharlin
Carolyn Ojala
Susan W. Woods
Smitty Smith


Justin Drwencke, Coordinator
Colleen Armitage, Assistant Coordinator
Rayna Gold, Assistant Coordinator

Artistic Director

Internationally renowned bassist and Mack Avenue recording artist, Rodney Whitaker, currently holds the titles of Professor of Jazz Bass and Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University where he has built one of the leading jazz degree programs and performing faculty in the United States of America. He is considered one of the leading performers and teachers of the jazz double bass in the United States. Whitaker has performed and toured with over 100+ legendary performing jazz artists over the past 25+ years.  Featured on more than 100+ recordings — from film to compact discs — Whitaker’s film scores, China, directed by Jeff Wray, was released on PBS Fall 2002 and Malaria and Malawi, released on PBS Fall 2010. Also, Whitaker has a DVD release featuring Michigan State University’s Jazz Department entitled, “Inside Jazz” and two new compact discs entitled, “Get Ready” & “Word To Do”—both on Mack Avenue Records and “Better Than Alright” by Michigan State University College of Music.