The D.C. Council voted unanimously today to confirm Aaron Myers — a jazz vocalist, pianist and longtime artist-activist — as the new executive director of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
“For years, I’ve advocated for creatives to the D.C. government, and now I’m in a position to take that same spirit and advance many of the causes that will close equity gaps, give voice to those who feel forgotten and to spotlight the margins so we can identify pathways of support to the marginalized,” Myers said. “To say I’m grateful for the opportunity would be an understatement.”
With his trademark powerful stage presence, Myers is best known to D.C. jazz audiences as the host of a weekly Wednesday jam session at Mr. Henry’s, the historic restaurant and club in Capitol Hill where Roberta Flack got her start in the 1960s.In 2021 he released The Pride Album, a well-received LP featuring covers and originals, with Myers backed by some of D.C.’s finest musicians. The album netted him both “Best Jazz Song” and “Best Jazz Artist” at the 2022 Wammie awards.
Myers has also been a prominent activist on behalf of musicians since he arrived in D.C. almost 15 years ago, having just spent the better part of a year working on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He went on to help build the Capitol Hill Jazz Foundation alongside saxophonist Herb Scott, and has also served on various organizations’ boards around the region. Since the early days of coronavirus lockdown, he has helped convene weekly “DMV Music Stakeholders” Zoom calls, which became an important organizing tool for musicians and their allies during the pandemic.
Given Myers’s decades of experience as an artist, advocate and organizer in the region, his appointment to lead the commission is big news for the local jazz community. “There is no one better suited” to lead the commission, Chris Naoum, the founder of Listen Local First, who has co-led the music stakeholders Zoom calls with Myers, told CapitalBop via email. “If Aaron can bring together all of the arts disciplines and build coalitions in the same way he did for the music community, there are going to be great things coming out of the commission over the next couple years.”
Myers steps into the executive-director position after the commission’s previous leader, Dr. Heran Sereke-Brhan, vacated the role last year. According to D.C. Code, the executive director is elected by the commission to a renewable four-year term. The D.C. Council first nominated Myers for the position in March, after a four-month search. His appointment was discussed in March during a meeting of the council’s Committee on the Whole.
“I have known and worked with Aaron for a long time,” Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George told CapitalBop in an email. “Aaron is a thoughtful, dedicated leader with a strong record of centering local artists and lifting up equity and inclusion in the arts.”
Jackson Sinnenberg contributed reporting.
Disclosure: CapitalBop regularly receives philanthropic funding from the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities.