Randall Kline, founder and executive artistic director of the San Francisco Jazz Organization, has built SFJAZZ into an internationally recognized, year-round music institution that presents more than 100 concerts a year. The 28th annual San Francisco Jazz Festival runs Sept. 14 through Nov. 20.
Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?
Apart from my parents and family, no one person but many, and all different types. For example, Terry Dowling, a bartender at a nightclub I worked at in my early 20s here in San Francisco. He was a great example of work as disciplined and fun with style, and he took pride in doing his job well. For a young guy early in the working world, he made an impression on me, and I still think about him now 30-plus years later.
To whom do you turn to in tough times?
Again, first on the list is family — my wife and children. While I am not religious, insofar as believing in a specific god for a specified group of people, I do believe in god — an ethereal entity that has a handle on the grand order of things. I trust who or whatever that is.
Where do you find inspiration?
This will be a surprise — family again! My wife is a constant inspiration — smart, beautiful and keeps me on my toes. She makes me a better person.
What one book or piece of writing has had a large impact on you?
Recently [in the past five years], Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” a riveting account of Lincoln’s ascendency to the presidency and his purposeful selection of his Cabinet.
How did you come to found SFJAZZ?
A meeting with Kary Schulman, the director of The City’s Grants for the Arts program, was the starting point. I had some experience as a jazz concert producer, and my business partner at that time, Clinton Gilbert, was a production specialist. At Kary’s encouragement we came up with the idea for a jazz festival. We spent about a year after that meeting, researching what we thought would be viable, and then applied for a grant from The City. We received a $10,000 grant for a festival with a $26,000 budget. It was called Jazz in the City at the time.
What were you doing before that?
I was working doing production, marketing and publicity work for arts groups.
Do you play an instrument or did you grow up with music in your family?
My father was a fair-to-good jazz piano player. My folks went out to see jazz regularly when I was young. My mom loved classical and opera. My two older brothers also played the piano and listened to a lot of the pop music of the time. I started playing the electric bass at 13 and was immersed in playing Rolling Stones and Animals songs in garage bands.
What’s coming up for SFJAZZ?
SFJAZZ is building a new performing arts center for jazz in Hayes Valley. We just received approval for the project from the San Francisco Planning Commission, and we are scheduled for a fall 2012 opening. The center will house our performances, education programs and offices. We believe this will be a significant addition to the cultural life of San Francisco, as well as an important project for the continuing evolution of jazz. Something we can all be proud of!