Meghan Stabile, an innovative jazz promoter, producer, organizer, curator, and advocate who proudly adopted the New York Times‘ description of her as a “modern impresario,” died June 14 in Valrico, Florida. She was 39.
Her death was confirmed by WBGO radio in Newark, New Jersey. Cause of death was suicide.
Stabile was the founder and chief executive officer of Revive Music Group, a jazz promotion and strategy company whose focus was on building a young, fresh jazz audience—by connecting that audience with sounds that were relevant to them. She specialized in marketing jazz artists who had incorporated elements of mainstream pop and hip-hop into their music, even working with a sort of house band, the Revive Big Band, founded by her friends Igmar Thomas and Raydar Ellis.
Stabile adopted the philosophy that attracting a hip, contemporary audience for jazz required hip, contemporary promotion techniques. She was a crucial online presence, first building a website (The Revivalist, now defunct) to spotlight musicians she admired and then becoming a social-media maven. This virtual work translated into real-life results, as she booked and produced live events for those same artists. Most importantly, Stabile created an environment in which the artists could explore their intersections with popular musical styles, rather than being obligated to fit a venue’s, record company’s, or audience’s preconception of what jazz could be.
In addition to the big band, she worked with keyboardist Robert Glasper; harpist Brandee Younger; saxophonists Pharoah Sanders, Ravi Coltrane, and Marcus Strickland; and drummers Otis Brown III and Chris Dave. She also fostered innovative collaborations for those artists: The Revive Big Band earned a reputation for its work with the likes of tap dancer Savion Glover and singer/rapper Lauryn Hill, and Stabile garnered great acclaim for programming concerts with the Robert Glasper Experiment, vibraphonist Roy Ayers, and rapper Pete Rock on the same bill.
She created an annual showcase for Revive artists at New York’s Winter JazzFest. In 2013, Blue Note Records president Don Was signed her to a contract with the label as a producer and curator.
Stabile herself was renowned for her deep passion for the music, seemingly bottomless reservoir of energy, and the hard work into which she channeled that energy—even during the times when the work seemed futile.
“It’s been tough in a lot of ways,” Stabile told the New York Times in 2013. “Having to deal with a concert and have no one show up. Having to deal with putting hours and days and years into an idea that’s just taken from you. Putting your heart and soul into something and dealing with the disappointment of not having it be where you want it to be. Putting your heart and soul into an artist and not being able to help them. Being misunderstood.”
“Meghan was a brilliant and powerful force who completely changed the music scene in NYC,” pianist Taylor Eigsti wrote on Facebook. “She was a true visionary in every way.”
“An absolute force, she always made the impossible seem not only possible but in reach,” said Paris Strother, half of the experimental R&B duo King. “She was truly an inspiration.”
Meghan Erin Stabile was born July 26, 1982 in Corpus Christi, Texas. She never met her father, and had a troubled relationship with her mother that she described as “abusive.” She was raped at the age of five. Stabile largely grew up with her grandmother and an aunt in Dover, New Hampshire. Childhood remained difficult, and Stabile was expelled from several schools for fighting. Music, however, was a refuge, and her talents as a singer and guitarist earned Stabile a spot at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
While studying at Berklee, Stabile worked tending bar at Wally’s Café, a jazz club in Boston’s South End with a reputation for nurturing students at the city’s various conservatories. Stabile was thus able to cultivate relationships with younger musicians as well as their revered elders, and to take an interest in their music.
“Between the intense exposure from school and seeing it in action nightly at Wally’s, I became obsessed,” Stabile told Willard Jenkins in a 2012 interview. “I wanted to know everything: how, why, when, who, what… But at the same time a question that nagged at me the most and would later prove to be a crucial part of our purpose to this day was, ‘Why am I just found out about this? Why is this music—the most beautiful and complex forms of music—so confined? Why did I have to come here to find it and why it was not readily available to me?”
She switched the focus of her studies to music business and management, leaving school before she completed the degree and moving to New York.
As a woman in a male-dominated business, Stabile struggled to be taken seriously; her diminutive figure and soft-spoken mien compounded the condescension. She soldiered on, however, with a toughness that only deepened as she grappled with setbacks. Ultimately she was able to book some shows at smaller, lesser-known venues. She dubbed her business venture Revive Da Live, extending the brand with the Revivalist website, which she started in 2010.
Drawing on her connections from Berklee and other schools, Stabile slowly expanded her network to virtually include the entire New York jazz scene, even such legendary figures as Sanders and Coltrane. Her partner venues also expanded, with Stabile booking gigs at Zinc, Le Poisson Rouge, and the Blue Note. Then came the Revive Music stage at Winter JazzFest, solidifying the position of Stabile and her innovations in the jazz world.
Even so, the work remained intense, and Stabile’s commitment to it duly intensified. So did the stress. The 2020 edition of the Winter JazzFest had a theme—largely at Stabile’s behest—of musicians’ wellness. During the Revive showcase (aptly titled “Revive Yo Feelings”), she gave an unannounced and revealing monologue about her rape, her pressures, and the drugs and alcohol she had used to coping. She credited her friends Glasper and drummer Ralph Peterson with helping her to recover.
“Revive Yo Feelings” was among Stabile’s last productions, as the COVID-19 lockdowns came six weeks later. Though unable to book live performances, she continued promoting and advocating for the music where and when she could. In the meantime, she committed herself to wellness as a discipline. Relocating first to Los Angeles, then to the Tampa Bay area, she worked as an instructor in the Chinese meditative healing art of Qigong and studied Chinese traditional medicine.
Stabile was predeceased by her mother, Gina Marie Stabile Skidds. She is survived by her grandmother, Maureen Stabile; a brother, Michael (Mike) Skidds; a sister, Caitlyn Skidds Chaloux; and three nieces. Mike Skidds and his wife, Shelby, have set up a GoFundMe in order to pay for Stabile’s funeral.