KCSM programmer Jesse “Chuy” Varela is the 2017 recipient of JazzWeek’s Bobby Jackson Award, which recognizes a jazz programmer’s professionalism, programming abilities, and contribution to jazz radio. “The Bobby Jackson Award is a big deal for KCSM and it’s great how much the school district values it,” says Varela. This award, which is honored on an annual basis, was created after the passing of Bobby Jackson, an influential jazz programmer and educator. Amongst several other awards, the Bobby Jackson Award was honored by JazzWeek on August 10 at the JazzWeek summit in San Jose.
Varela, who is the host of Latin Jazz and Jazz in the Afternoon, says, “The Bobby Jackson Award is a huge, personal honor because Bobby mentored me, throughout my career, and was such a special guy in jazz radio. He was passionate about educating people on jazz and interacting with listeners. So, we try to do the same things here, at KCSM, and I think this award is a reflection of those efforts.”
Varela has been working for KCSM since the mid-1980s and became the music director in 2000. In addition to his work with KCSM, Varela supervises the digitization of KJAZ’s vinyl records, a now-defunct jazz station that was based in Alameda. He also writes music reviews and liner notes for publications like the San Francisco Chronicle, Latin Beat Magazine, and JazzTimes.
Furthermore, Varela feels that, “KCSM has a responsibility to jazz music and its listeners. The public’s support drives us forward, while we have the privilege to share some of world’s greatest jazz programmers and musicians with them.” When asked about the future of KCSM, Varela laughed, “I hope we can evolve the station, bring new talent in, and possibly find the next Chuy.”