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Monday, June 22nd, 2020




New York, NY—June 22, 2020—Jazz at Lincoln Center today announced that long-time Board member and respected business and civic leader Clarence Otis has been unanimously selected by its Board of Directors as its next Board chair, effective September 15, 2020. Mr. Otis will succeed Robert J. Appel, who has served in that capacity since 2012 and will remain a member of the Board. Mr. Otis, who has held a variety of leadership positions on the institution’s Board since joining in 2012, is currently its Treasurer and chair of the Finance Committee.

This announcement culminates a six-month search to identify the ideal leader to steward Jazz at Lincoln Center through its next era of growth. Mr. Otis becomes only the fifth Board chair in the organization’s 33-year history; along with Mr. Appel, previous chairs include Gordon Davis, Ted Ammon, and Lisa Schiff.

In this role, Mr. Otis will work closely with the Board and Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis on strategy, policy, and fundraising, and support new initiatives to advance the organization’s global mission.

Mr. Appel said, “I join my fellow board members in congratulating Clarence. We are confident that under his leadership, this Board will remain as effective and dedicated to positively impacting the constituents Jazz at Lincoln Center serves. As a member of the Board since 2008, I have served on various Committees and have witnessed first-hand this Board’s commitment to the preservation and advancement of this music. It has been a great honor serving as Board chair for eight years.” 

A graduate of Williams College, Mr. Otis earned a law degree from Stanford University in 1980 and practiced law in New York City before beginning his career in finance and business.


Formerly the CEO of Darden Restaurants and currently Lead Director of the Board of Directors of Verizon Communications, Mr. Otis is a proven and experienced leader with a track record of success. He is a long-standing and valued member on a number of other significant for-profit and nonprofit boards, where he is respected for his integrity, clarity and commitment to community.


Inspired by the arts since childhood, Mr. Otis grew up near the Watts Towers Arts Center, which served as the hub for the Los Angeles Black Arts Movement in the 1970s. The artists, painters, and actors who congregated at the Towers informed his knowledge and appreciation of the quality and diversity in African American art and culture. These early, powerful experiences showed him that the arts play a central role in enriching and elevating communities.

Mr. Otis and his wife, Jacqueline Bradley, reside in Orlando, Florida. Over the past 30 years, they have been deeply involved in a broad range of civic organizations in Orlando and New York City. They are passionate collectors of works by African American and other African Diaspora artists. In April, Mr. Otis and Ms. Bradley received Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2020 Ed Bradley Award.

To identify its next chair, Jazz at Lincoln Center created a search committee led by its Executive Committee chair, Mark Rosenthal. This group, comprised of a diverse group of current Directors, developed a profile of the ideal person to lead Jazz at Lincoln Center into its next era. Board members (and others) were interviewed over a three-month period to identify and assess all candidates. After this extensive identification and interview process, Mr. Otis was unanimously recommended and then unanimously elected by the Board.

“I am deeply honored to be elected as the new chair and look forward to working with my Board colleagues,” said Mr. Otis. “Among its many achievements, Jazz at Lincoln Center was one of the first arts organizations to swiftly shift its focus to digital media during the current pandemic in order to continue providing the healing power of jazz. Together with our Board of Directors, staff, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, we will continue our important work to entertain, enrich and expand a global community through performance, education and advocacy.”

Wynton Marsalis said, “Bob Appel’s steadfast leadership and meaningful contributions have advanced our international objectives in audience growth and engagement. He is with us every step of the way to ensure a sure-footed transition in these uncertain times. Clarence is a dedicated and insightful long-standing board member who is also a die-hard lover of jazz and a connoisseur of American culture. He was even more definitive about accepting this role in light of the arts sectors’ current challenges. He brings a passion that is vital to the success of our mission—to burnish the storied history of jazz, to participate in its powerful present, and to ensure a vibrant, meaningful future with new stars who can excite and engage audiences across the globe. I am excited to work with him.”


Press Inquiries:
Zooey Tidal Jones
Jazz at Lincoln Center 
Director, Public Relations and External Communications