Helene Cann is co-founder, along with her husband and partner Marty Khan, of Outward Visions, Inc., a not-for-profit arts and education service organization founded in 1977. She has had a busy and varied 40 year career in the arts.
She began as the Publicist and Tour Coordinator for Rasa Artists in 1976 (officially incorporated as Outward Visions in 1980), which arranged the first American tours for Sam Rivers, Anthony Braxton, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the World Saxophone Quartet. She was Director of the Outward Visions Touring Program (OVTP) and held that position until the Program was ended in 1994, arranging tours for the Art Ensemble of Chicago (including a major tour with Women of the Calabash in 1990), the World Saxophone Quartet, George Russell’s Sextet and George Russell’s Living Time Orchestra, Jack DeJohnette, Randy Weston, Lester Bowie’s From the Root to the Source, Ali Akbar Khan and Steve Reich and Musicians, including Steve’s first tour of Japan, to name a few. She had particular success in placing artists in the jazz tradition on the Performing Arts touring circuit before it was a common occurrence.
In 1982, in conjunction with Festival Productions and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Outward Visions, Inc. was co-sponsor of the Los Angeles Kool Jazz Festival – New Directions in Sound and Rhythm, for which Ms. Cann coordinated all publicity, wrote the program information on all of the musicians and generated more coverage for this one festival than all other Kool Jazz Festivals that year. Artists included Laurie Anderson, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the World Saxophone Quartet, Lester Bowie’s From the Root to the Source, James “Blood” Ulmer, Air, Roscoe Mitchell’s Sound & Space, Muhal Richard Abrams, John Carter, Anthony Braxton and the Nikolais Dance Theatre.
In the early 1980s she provided publicity and tour coordination services to the Nikolais Dance Theatre and in 1987 began working with Kennedy Center Honoree Alwin Nikolais as Booking Director and Company Manager of the Nikolais Dance Theatre, where she was responsible for arranging Nik’s most successful touring season ever, including their appearance at the first Spoleto Festival in Australia and their first New York Season at the Joyce Theatre.
Helene managed composer Steve Reich for seven years, facilitating the premiers of Electric Counterpoint (1987 for Pat Metheny), the Grammy Winning Different Trains (1988 for the Kronos Quartet), and assisting him in one of his largest pieces, The Cave, which had its American Premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in 1993.
In the 1990’s she was Co-Director of The Coltrane Project of Philadelphia, which was conceived by Marty Khan. This project partnered seven community arts and cultural organizations in the City of Philadelphia, and had internationally renowned visiting artists who had either performed with or were profoundly influenced by John Coltrane work with these organizations’ ensembles to create new works and re-imagined Coltrane compositions. Helene also coordinated the major concert events: a benefit for the John W. Coltrane Cultural Society with Sonny Fortune, Reggie Workman and Rashied Ali on the 39th anniversary of Coltrane’s passing; a day-long free concert at the Annenberg Center of the University of Pennsylvania on the 70th anniversary of Coltrane’s birth featuring Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Sonny Fortune, Andrew Cyrille, Larry Harlow, Larry Ridley, Charles Davis, Ronnie Matthews and young local artists who were involved in the workshops performing side by side with the masters; and the culminating event featuring ensembles led by Charles Gayle Conrad Herwig and Rashied Ali.
She served as Associate Editor of the Jazz sites gmn.com and jazzplus.com for two years, writing news stories and promotional copy, editing and proofing the site and selecting CDs for sale on the site and in the CD store. She has also worked as a freelance publicist for various jazz concerts, including for the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians).
Other projects include publicist and coordinator for the Afro-Latino-Americas Festival in Tucson that provided over 30 workshops and concerts in 16 schools by internationally acclaimed artists, culminating in a free outdoor festival at an urban park where these artists performed; establishing, publicizing and coordinating The Transcendence Initiative (Dedicated to the Artistry & Spirit of John Coltrane), which presented the Oliver Lake Steel Quartet in a series of concerts and school workshops in Tucson in the Fall of 2003 and Spring 2004 and working on Straight Ahead: A Comprehensive Guide to the Business of Jazz and the accompanying Teacher’s Guide with Suggested Assignments, published Spring of 2004.
In 2003, Helene was appointed to the Board of the Arizona Humanities Council by Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, on which she served until 2004.
From 2008-2010 she was Communications Director for LiveWired, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to implementing new technologies and economic models to empower artists, build communities, preserve culture and legacy, and create sustainable channels for expanding the cultural and educational impact of the arts.
Helene has lectured and held seminars and workshops for Arts Midwest, the New England Foundation for the Arts, Arizona Commission on the Arts, ASCAP, and JazzTimes. She was a consultant for the National Jazz Service Organization’s Technical Assistance Program and has advised many musicians on the art of self-booking and self-promotion.
Born in Washington, D.C., she lived in the area until moving to New York City in 1971, where she lived until moving to the Sonoran Desert of Tucson AZ in 1994.
She currently runs the daily operations and coordinates all of the activities of Outward Visions.