Breaking boundaries in festival programming

Gendered and cultural transformations at the JazzFest Berlin


  • Nora Leidinger University of Groningen Author
  • Kristin McGee University of Groningen Author



jazz impresario, jazz programmer, jazzfest berlin, gender, jazz festival, Nadin Deventer, Joachim-Ernst Berendt


In Germany, the modern jazz festival programmer descended from earlier multifaceted roles established during the interwar and war periods as cultivated by both German and international jazz critics, record collectors, and impresarios. While impresarios historically occupied multiple roles as fans, critics, and producers; they often inhabited the quintessential cosmopolitan role of (white) male jazz critic and discoverer of Black musical creativity. This article examines the impact of the legacy of this archetype in the German context, with the case study of JazzFest Berlin. In particular, we trace the particular contours of Joachim-Ernst Berendt’s (1922–2000) embodied enactment of masculinity within the postwar German jazz festival world, beginning with the seminal founder of the JazzFest Berlin. Drawing on feminist initiatives of the first American women jazz organizers, we compare this female-centric legacy with the particular style and ideologies created by Berliner Jazztage programmer Nadin Deventer, the first female programmer of this historic festival, who brings an innovative and socially engaged approach, in part by staging less constrained gender expectations. Through interviews and an examination of publications, programme reviews, and more, we reveal how the figure of the jazz impresario has been disrupted by increased attention to the roles of professional women programmers who consciously embrace diverse competencies and seek greater recognition of the intersectional barriers for women, women of colour, and foreigners within the German jazz scene.

Author Biographies

  • Nora Leidinger, University of Groningen

    Nora Leidinger is currently a lecturer in Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Groningen. Her research is broadly concerned with intersectional power dynamics in the music industry and academia, and more specifically, she is currently researching constructions of generational identity, girlhood, and the self in the online genre of bedroom pop.

  • Kristin McGee, University of Groningen

    Kristin McGee is an Associate Professor of Popular Music at the University of Groningen and a Senior Lecturer in Jazz and Contemporary Music Performance at the School of Music at the Australian National University. Her research focuses upon popular music, jazz performance, and media through the lens of intersectional frameworks. Publications include Some Liked it Hot: Jazz Women in Film and Television, 1928–1959 (Wesleyan University Press, 2009), Remixing European Jazz Culture (Routledge, 2020) and a co-edited volume Beyoncé in the World: Meaning Making in Troubled Times (Wesleyan University Press, 2021).


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How to Cite

Leidinger, N., & McGee, K. (2024). Breaking boundaries in festival programming: Gendered and cultural transformations at the JazzFest Berlin. Popular Music History, 15(2-3), 137–155.