Profile: Joan Lowden
What do classical music, jazz, and the elephant seals at Año Nuevo have in common?  Well, Joan Lowden for one. For Joan, those somewhat disparate topics fall under her twin interests:  culture and nature. Not surprisingly, those twin interests were central in her decision to relocate to Santa Cruz from London, England, in 1993, and open her database consulting firm, Lowden Business Solutions. She’s never come across anyplace quite like Santa Cruz in her travels, and the San Jose native has done a lot of traveling. During the eighties, and early nineties, while working for Apple Computer, Joan spent a good deal of time living abroad with extended stints in Mexico City, Japan, and London. When she decided to leave the fast-paced, corporate lifestyle behind, Santa Cruz beckoned her back to the USA. “Santa Cruz is amazingly rich in cultural activities for a town of its size,” she says, citing the Kuumbwa Jazz Center and other local arts organizations as examples. “At the same time, you have wonderful nature areas nearby, like Año Nuevo.”

Joan’s introduction to the Kuumbwa experience was a concert by vibraphone great Milt Jackson. As a longtime vocalist, with a choral music background, Joan could easily relate to jazz singers, but Milt’s concert sparked a deeper interest in instrumental jazz. Over time, she was inspired to take up the bass. This year, she enrolled in an improvisation class at Cabrillo College under the tutelage of Ray Brown, one of the finest jazz educators in the country. Describing herself as an ‘absolute beginner’, Joan says, jokingly, “I spend 3 days a week trying not to embarrass myself playing bass in Ray’s improv class.”  So, why choose the bass?  “In jazz, the bass player is crucial to anchoring the time,” she says. “There is structure, but there’s lots of room to be creative. I really enjoy that challenge.”

In addition to music, Joan Lowden is passionate about volunteering. For the last three years, she has used her considerable experience as a database consultant to help out at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. Prior to her involvement with Kuumbwa, Joan has been a volunteer for the Cabrillo Music Festival, where she housed guest musicians; served on the board of directors; and participated in several Cabrillo Music Festival performances as a choral vocalist. She has also been a volunteer for New Music Works, and served for two-terms on their board of directors. As for the elephant seals at Año Nuevo?  Well, on top of everything else, Joan has served as a docent naturalist at Año Nuevo, leading tours of the elephant seal colony, for the last 13 years. Why does she volunteer so much of her time?  Joan sums up her feelings in words that resonate for many Kuumbwa volunteers: “You get back as much as you give when you volunteer, especially when it’s something you really care about.” You can bet even the elephant seals would agree with that. Thank you, Joan!

- Kurt Brinkmeyer