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Music

Jazz director best behind scenes of Manchester Craftsmen's Guild

| Thursday, March 12, 2015, 8:55 p.m.
Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Jazz Director Renee Govanucci checks on an artist back stage while working as liaison between artist-management-audience before the start of an MCG concert Saturday, March 7, 2015.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Jazz Director Renee Govanucci checks on an artist back stage while working as liaison between artist-management-audience before the start of an MCG concert Saturday, March 7, 2015.
Manchester Craftsmen's Guild jazz director Renee Govanucci
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Manchester Craftsmen's Guild jazz director Renee Govanucci
Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Jazz Director Renee Govanucci adjusts the house lights before the start of an MCG concert.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Jazz Director Renee Govanucci adjusts the house lights before the start of an MCG concert.

Renee Govanucci brings a sense of organization to the arts.

“You can't interview for what Renee has,” says Pat McKeown, who gave Govanucci her first job in arts management.

Marty Ashby, her current boss at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side, says he saw her skills “the moment she walked in the door.”

Since May 1999, Govanucci has been managing, organizing and directing the jazz concerts for which the guild is famous.

She calls herself a “liaison, in a lot of ways, or a coordinator,” and she presents a familiar face in the lobby at guild events. In shows like the one March 13, she will virtually hover in that area, keeping track of performer and audience needs.

She sees her job as one in which she provides the logistics and handles the realities, where jazz stars offer the creations.

“She has captured that little X factor,” says McKeown, the director of the Dance Company for the Performing Arts in North Versailles. That group has emerged from Pat McKeown and Dancers, for which Govanucci served as a part-time manager in the early '90s.

Govanucci, 45, who lives in Brookline, graduated with a degree in arts management from what is now Point Park University in 1991. She had studied as a teenager in Elizabeth Township with McKeown and had enough credits at Point Park to have a dance minor.

But she saw her career in the management end of the arts and applied for the position with the McKeown group. McKeown says she wanted someone with a little more experience, but “you know Renee. She was just so charming, so energetic. She has such dedication to the arts.”

Dedication does not always pay the rent, though, and Govanucci was supplementing her income with hours at a card store and a clothing shop.

She found a full-time job with the Children's Festival Chorus, which was headquartered at Duquesne University. She was there from 1993 to '99, when Ashby posted a job notice for an administrative assistant, which a colleague noticed.

“She said, ‘You like music, you like jazz; this sounds like you,'” Govanucci says.

She admits she wasn't sure it was a perfect fit, but it began to shape up that way. In the time she has been there, Govanucci has moved from administrative assistant to associate producer to director. Her tasks have moved from rather ordinary assistant work to coordinating programs.

For instance, she is currently working on the Jazz Celebration, a gala and concert in June involving the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. She's also involved in planning for the guild and Bidwell Training Center as a corporate whole.

Ashby, executive producer of MCGJazz, also mentions her work in the Jazz Forward program, a New York City event that links jazz presenters and other professionals in the art.

“She is the kind of person who can lift us into the next phase,” Ashby says.

Govanucci says she is pleased with her role at the guild and sees herself staying for upcoming chapters.

Her variety of responsibilities does not seem to trip her up.

“She is always on top of everything and never leaves any detail unattended,” says drummer Thomas Wendt, who is involved in many guild programs. “Renee takes care of business in every way. And she does it all with grace.”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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