Kathy Wade is a jazz icon. For proof, you need look no further than the logo created for the Crown Jewels of Jazz Festival. The highly stylized chanteuse bears a striking resemblance to her.
“Everyone tells me that, but only the designer knows for sure.”
This also is one diva with advanced education—a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in art administration. “I’ve been singing since I was 4 years old. I always sang. It is nice to have a talent. It’s better to have some degrees.”
And to put those degrees to use. Which she does. In 1992, Wade combined her passions for the arts, education and community development by co-founding Learning Through Art, a non-profit using art as a means of creating community engagement and understanding. That serves as her day-to-day vocation.
She also helped launch the Crown Jewels of Jazz Festival, a two-day outdoor festival in Cincinnati celebrating the history, legacy and joy of jazz—including a jazz camp for high schoolers organized through Learning Through Art. That serves as the showcase for the talent that helped lift her into the spotlight—her voice.
When Wade first launched the festival in 1996, it was a one-night-only, black-tie, sit-down dinner cabaret featuring vocal luminaries the likes of Rosemary Clooney, Eartha Kit, Nancy Wilson, Shirley Horn and others. In the past few years, though, the festival itself has undergone an impressive metamorphesis, evolving into a two-day, multi-venue music festival. Wade sees this as part of her mission not only to keep jazz alive, but also to thrive.
“In growing anything, you have to keep the audience growing.”
For Wade, jazz and education produce a parallel passion. As CEO of Learning Through Art she has helped to produce Art Books Alive for Kids, a nationally recognized performing arts literacy program. Proceeds from the festival help fund these programs while promoting a “global jazz village for literacy.”
So while the “crown jewels” evolve with the times, Wade’s devotion to jazz and education remains fundamental. “For me, in the evolution of music, jazz will always influence the mainstream. It’s America’s classical music.”