About Us

The GULF JAZZ SOCIETY is dedicated to presenting, preserving and perpetuating America’s Music in the Bay County area. The current president is John Lewis, lifelong Panama City resident and son of renowned educator Margaret K. Lewis.
Founded in 1997, the GJS serves as an advocate of jazz music in the Panama City area of north Florida. The Society’s mission is to raise awareness of jazz by presenting live musical events and otherwise preserving and perpetuating jazz as an important part of America’s cultural heritage.
The GJS is an organization of jazz enthusiasts from all walks of life. Membership includes musicians, business, professional and retired persons, students and persons simply interested in listening to great music and advancing the cause of America’s original music.

Jazz is the only American music recognized by Congress as a truly original art form. Its development and flowering not only reflects the cultural diversity and melting pot character of our social history, but represents American values of artistic freedom, improvisation and innovation.

​Related jazz styles of blues and swing have provided the basis, stepping stone and bridge to all forms of modern American popular music – from rock to rap, even country. All styles have been touched by jazz.
As part of its annual program, the GJS awards a scholarship and introduces jazz to local schools. Recently the Society awarded a $500 scholarship to a young high school musician who has been accepted into the music program of a local university.   The Society’s St. Andrews festival series began in April of 2002 with ”Joy Spring––A Jazz Jubilee” in celebration of National Jazz Appreciation Month.  A highlight of the mini-festival was the presentation of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” to legendary clarinetist Buddy DeFranco who accepted the award in person with stirring words about the importance of jazz to our cultural experience. Subsequent free Jazz-By-the-Bay festivals have been presented each fall. The festivals have featured jazz musicians of national reputation such as Ira Sullivan, Bob Dorough, Warren Vache, J. B. Scott and the University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble, Duke Heigter, John Eric Kelso, Eddie Higgins, Steve Gilmore, Giacomo Gates, Hod O’Brian and Stephanie Nakasian.
The annual Jazz By-the-Bay Festival to be held the first week in November at Oaks-By-the-Bay Park in the historic St. Andrews section of Panama City, Fl.
Jazz by the Bay has traditionally been scheduled in the first weekend of October.  but given the unpredictability of the weather (not to mention increased hurricane activity later in the season), we’ve decided to try out the first weekend in November for 2022.  Cooler temps and a calmer Gulf should make for a wonderful event….our 20th! Additionally, GJS holds monthly shows featuring some of the best jazz talent in and out of the area. The list of performers hosted by the GJS includes Cheryl Jones, Victor Payano, Charles Pagano, Robert Orr, Gene Bertoncini, Mike Levine, Crystal Joy, David Seering, Kathy Lyon, George Petropolis, Bobby van Deusen, our very own music director and three time Grammy winner, Steve Gilmore, The Bailsmen, The Anderson Brothers and the Emmaline Band, just to name a few! Gulf Jazz Society Board of Directors meets monthly in Panama City, FL. Any person interested in jazz and the program of the GJS is welcome to attend.

The GJS is a 501(c) (3) non-profit.