Linda Yohn Celebrated by SEMJA

Linda Yohn, whose voice has been, for many years, the iconic expression of morning jazz in our area, has been chosen by SEMJA to receive the 2017 Ron Brooks Award for her tireless work in support of jazz and the jazz community of Southeastern Michigan.

Yohn got her start in radio in Columbus and Kent, Ohio, and worked briefly as music publicist in New York City. Since moving to Michigan she worked for WEMU for thirty years, serving as Program Director and Music Director, as the host of a very popular morning radio program and as a tireless supporter of jazz in her community. she has also served as an ambassador for Michigan jazz throughout the country, acquiring a prominent national profile as a jazz journalist and as a pioneer for women in jazz radio.

Yohn has received many awards for her work as a jazz broadcaster. Most recently she was named the 2017 National Jazz Presenter of the Year by JazzWeek magazine at their annual summit in San Jose. Yohn won the Willis Conover-Marian McPartland Award for Excellence In Jazz Journalism from the Jazz Journalists Association in 2016. In 2006 she received The Duke Dubois Jazz Humanitarian Award at the annual JazzWeek Summit.

On Monday, October 30, Yohn will receive the SEMJA Award at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club in Ann Arbor during the weekly performance by Paul Keller’s Orchestra. The music starts at 7:00 p.m. and the awards presentation will take place between sets. The Zal Gaz is located at 2070 West Stadium Blvd. in Ann Arbor.

SEMJA’s Ron Brooks Award is given annually to Detroit musicians, educators, broadcasters, or writers who have made significant contributions to the jazz community. Previous awardees include Ernie Rodgers, Louis Smith, George Benson, Kenn Cox, Matt Michaels, Bess Bonnier, Ed Love, Hazen Schumacher, and Michael G Nastos. Ron Brooks was the founder of the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association (SEMJA), a non-profit organization formed to promote understanding and appreciation of jazz as an art form.

Linda Yohn — An Appreciation

We have known Linda since she started at WEMU some thirty years ago, seemingly just yesterday, at a time when public broadcasting was so freewheeling and exciting. Her choice to move on to other endeavors at this stage of her life leaves us sad, but we fully understand her decision and look forward to what the future will bring. Linda has always been a live wire, and there can be no doubt that she always will continue to make an impact in whatever domain she chooses to explore in the years to come. Her exuberant enthusiasm has been one of the hallmarks of her radio personality, tempered by a savvy professionality. This energetic passion for jazz, its performers and its audience, is equally evident when she takes to the stage to emcee a performance at a concert or festival. All in attendance instinctively know that she is the real thing, allowing her to rev up an audience, enhancing the experience for listeners and musicians alike.

Linda’s deep understanding of all aspects of jazz, broadcasting and performance is evident to those of us who have had the privilege of working with her on various jazz projects. She knows well the whole history of the music and is familiar with recordings old and new. Her animated good natured speaking style may seem naturally spontaneous, but it is important to appreciate that she has become such a great communicator precisely because takes the time to prepare her programs in great detail. Linda is particularly skilled at interviewing musicians whether in the studio or at the Detroit Jazz Festival, where she has been a regular in the Jazz Talk Tent for several years. Her success comes from close, often loving connections with local musicians who appreciate that she shows such deep respect for their artistry, their close-knit community and for the often-difficult conditions of their work.

Over the years, Linda Yohn has been a champion at building community between broadcasters, listeners and the jazz musician community, fulfilling her own goals and desires but also the noble goals of public broadcasting. She is clearly in tune with her listeners and has developed a loyal following in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area and beyond; indeed, she has garnered many national awards and is respected far and wide by musicians as well as jazz journalists and broadcasters. We know how well she is respected by her colleagues at WEMU, where she has done so much, on the waves and off, not the least by mentoring many of the up and coming radio voices at the station. Linda will be sorely missed by many when she signs off in December.