Music is a Passport, allowing travelers to walk into cultures, time periods, and gaining exposure to new ways of thinking. Avant ensures community members access to these windows of culture through diverse, dynamic and eclectic programming. By giving our community access, it encourages innovation by expanding minds, opening new horizons, and ensuring that our community continues to embrace other cultures through conscious interaction with it.
From its inception, Avant always intended to be more than a music series. Combining technology, interactive experiences, and a curatorial angle that seeks music that challenges and explores new territory, Avant has made an impact on the Jacksonville arts community in a relatively short amount of time. In addition, to their growing popularity around their concerts, they also offer new music through their weekly radio show on Jacksonville-based NPR station, WJCT.
“Exploring the music of a culture is an act of exploration,” says Keith Marks, co-founder and Executive Director of Avant. “Cities like New York, London, Tokyo, and other major arts centers have cultivated arts ecosystems. We don’t go to New York just to go to the Met; we go for the up and coming galleries in Chelsea, the underground jazz clubs in the East Village, for the off-Broadway theater in Soho warehouses. We must collectively invest and develop in our own cultural arts ecosystem – and it starts with cultural entrepreneurs taking risks and putting innovation at the forefront.”
At its inception in 2015, the nonprofit donated $4,500 worth of music from John Zorn’s record label, Tzadik and producing major productions from artists from all over the world highlighting a range of cultures. Lectures at the Jacksonville Public Library, film screenings, and other community-based initiatives have secured a grassroots following.
“Music is a safe way of interacting with another culture. By having a window into those cultures, Avant hopes to expand the community’s comfort level,” says Marks. “If we can’t take risks through music if we can’t interact with another culture through the arts, how are we, as an engaged community, going to tackle our deeply troubling problems? Music has the power to bring us together in an inclusive fashion like nothing else. It’s expanded my worldview; this is why I’m dedicated to impacting this community through music.”
Avant’s tagline is ‘Curious Music for Curious Minds.’ Its goal is to create a community of curious listeners interested in cultural exploration through the arts, allowing music to serve as a portal to expand our community’s definition of itself.