Being a superwoman isn’t easy but Cecily Mitchell makes it look like no big deal. To the community here in Durham, she is a big deal and is making us look at jazz in a whole new way. When Cecily isn’t busy planning, managing and doing everything in between as the co-founder of The Art of Cool Project, she is also working on a side project, So When Do I Clap?. Lucky for us, she gave us the scoop on what’s to come next and some artists that should be on all of our playlists.
12 hours in Durham, where would you go? 360 Approach with Chan Little for a good 30-minute workout, Beyu Caffe for an Oprah Mocha and parfait, Saltbox for lunch, American Underground to pow-wow with other entrepreneurs, Dinner at Dos Perros and Check out some music at Motorco or Beyu.
Top 3 spots for feasting? Basan, Nana’s Steak and Pie Pushers.
Go-to spot for that much-needed drink? The Durham
How has Durham evolved since you moved here? The music scene has grown in opportunities. Hospitality industry has grown in the matter of hotels and restaurants.
Favorite song right now? HUMBLE by Kendrick Lamar
What three words best describe Durham? Soulful. Cool. Changing.
You’re originally from West Tennessee, how did this influence your early love for jazz music? Growing up in rural West Tennessee I had a bunch of time to sit and listen to the radio (top 40) and listen to my dad’s albums and cassette tapes. My favorite CD growing up was Guru’s Jazzmatazz. It definitely had me hooked on first listen, and I wanted to learn more about jazz.
When did you first have the idea about the Art of Cool Project? After talking with Frank Myers during Al Strong’s performance at LabourLove Art Gallery. He volunteered to shoot the jazz set and wanted to donate the proceeds to our organization We weren’t really an organization then, but he saw our potential.
What does this festival mean to you? Everything. The festival is more than just a weekend. It is a way of life. A movement.
What made you choose Durham as the location for Art of Cool Project? We tested Durham and Raleigh with pop-up shows. We had more success and consistency in Durham. The vibe of the audience is very different in Durham. There is such an appreciation for jazz and Black American music in this city.
Who are some of your favorite jazz artists? Past: Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Donald Byrd. Present: Christian Scott, Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding
What is the most exciting part about putting on Art of Cool Project? The day of show – when people arrive and everyone is enjoying themselves. For those few hours everyone is happy and united by the musical experience.
Going into your fifth festival in 2018, how do you keep things fresh every year? We start planning when we get inspired. We don’t let timelines really dictate that we “have” to book music. We approach curating the festival as a work of art.
You handle everything from bookings, contracts, networking and sponsorships for the festival. What’s your favorite role? Booking the bands and really curating the program each year is the most fun for me
Besides Art Of Cool, you are also working on So When Do I Clap?. Can you tell us more about this project? So When Do I Clap? is my consulting company. I help curate culture by planning music events. Some of my clients are Beyu Caffe and Mill #1.
Where do you see Art of Cool Project in five years from now? In the last five years, Art Of Cool has expanded to multiple cities and our summer camps have increased to give more kids access to music education.
What does the community of Durham mean to you? Durham is my home. The place I can truly be proud of. The community has embraced me and my creative spirit.
Best piece of advice on the key to success? Start small. Dream Big. Network your butt off.