Steve Clemons - Chief Executive Officer
Sue Veres Royal - Chief Operating Officer
Gregory Charles Royal - Senior Vice President, Artistic Director
THE BEBOP CHANNEL HISTORY
Gregory watched as America’s one true original art form, a musical genre that originated in slavery and segregation and was once America’s most popular music, became siloed in small Jazz clubs, public television and academia. He feared it was becoming an art form to be studied instead of performed and enjoyed by the masses. Having played with Art Blakey and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Gregory understood that Jazz was not just something that should bring pride to African Americans, but that it should be seen as a real option for young black children to learn, play and make a living; he felt it important that young people understand that long before rappers and Hip Hop artists, Jazz musicians were considered some of the most gifted artists on Earth.
At the same time, Hip Hop was moving from inner cities to the mainstream and much of this popularity depended upon the personalities of Hip Hop artists and their move into acting – he thought, just as Hip Hop had sampled Jazz in their music, so too should Jazz musicians sample the moves that Hip Hop artists were making. Through Gregory and Sue’s nonprofit organization American Youth Symphony, Gregory sat down and wrote the first stage play in which Jazz musicians were cast as actors – It’s A Hardbop Life. This play told the story of Jazz musicians who pushed Jazz to the mainstream, even while not being allowed to patron the very clubs they played, or walk through the front doors of those clubs. The play was a reminder of the importance of Jazz to American history and culture, and the musicians on stage were not mimicking the acts of musicians while real musicians hid under the floor or behind the stage – the musicians played live. It was a Jazz club meets Broadway.
The success of the play in the Jazz community still felt limiting, so Gregory set forth to cross-over to film and television. He wrote his first short film World’s Not for Me, again examining the loss of Jazz in modern pop culture and its impact on Jazz musicians. His short film was awarded “Best Short” by the Harlem Film Festival in 2017. Soon thereafter, Gregory, with his mentor and renowned Bass player Mickey Bass, wrote a comedy/drama about struggling Jazz musicians in Harlem called Giant Steps, which also featured Lauren Hill trombonist Brent Birckhead.
With the success of their productions via American Youth Symphony, Sue and Gregory had hope to shine light on the plight of Jazz music, they also realized others were likely trying to create similar projects. Believing in the strength of community, Sue and Gregory founded the New York Jazz Festival featuring films that focused on Jazz or starred Jazz musicians as actors. In order to increase the number of people who would see the movies from the festival, Gregory, Sue and the other filmmakers licensed the movies to Amazon. The filmmakers were given literal pittance for viewership---it was then that the concept for The BeBop Channel was born.
Gregory and Sue set off to create an online community that brought together other siloed high art forms, marginalized voices and young filmmakers whose stories were not being shared with the mainstream – and to find a way to allow the artists to share in the profit being made off of their work. Gregory and Sue got licensing rights from the participants in the New York Jazz Film Festival in exchange for stock in the public company, The BeBop Channel Corporation. They started a global “content festival” for young filmmakers and marginalized voices to share their own stories directly with audiences, whether it be Iranian women making films on women’s rights, or Syrian filmmakers exploring the hell of war; select filmmakers were given stock in exchange for licensing agreements. There is currently a film festival underway for films featuring dance and theatrical productions – select filmmakers will also receive stock in exchange for licensing agreements. In November 2020, veteran journalist and DC events impresario Steve Clemons, became CEO of The BeBop Channel Corporation.
Equally important to allowing artists to share in the profits of their work, is the building of an interactive global community of artists. The BeBop Channel aims to be a place where artists can exchange ideas, push boundaries, share gig opportunities, provide feedback to one another, and directly interact with patrons of their work. While much of the exchange can and will be done online, an in-person component is also essential. Key to The BeBop Channel is the live experience of bring the high arts together, instead of the norm of separating them, and creating the BeBop Festival. The Festival will bring Jazz, global film viewings, theatrical productions, and dance performances together, allowing for in-person interaction among the artists but also with the patrons who support their work. The BeBop Channel will create a renaissance of the 20th century touring circuits for our artists via our hotel festivals throughout the country – bringing our Global City to life.