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Celebration of Service

A new riff on retirement

IBM retiree in Minnesota uses passion for big band jazz to inspire inner–city high school kids

After a 32 year career at IBM, retiree Jerry Swanberg decided it was time to get back into the jazz business, sharing his passion, talent and interests in big band jazz with his Minnesota community and volunteering over 2000 hours on various projects.

For the past eleven years, Swanberg has volunteered in an inner-city high school in Minneapolis, inspiring students who share his passion for music. He works with 60 students to host a twice-weekly radio show on KBEM/Jazz88, a non–profit public radio station operated by the Board of Education of Minneapolis. The radio station operates out of North High School and one of its main missions is to provide radio and media classes for the students.

The students learn how to improvise, read music, multitask and work as a team — all skills they will need well beyond high school. Working at the radio station also introduces them to technology tools, some of which come from IBM community grants they have been awarded with help from Swanberg. "I know that my time is really making a big difference," says Swanberg. "The high school students are staying out of trouble after school and have a higher chance of going on to college."


Swanberg also works with high school and college jazz bands in the area, mentoring students while preparing them for performances and competitions. With his help, the Minnetonka High School and University of Minnesota Jazz Ensemble each received grants from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Funds program, allowing both bands to compete in competitions and perform at several festivals.
Along with his high school and college efforts, Swanberg serves on the Twin Cities Jazz Society as a board member, big band coordinator and producer of several jazz concerts each year. He also writes articles shared through the society's network.

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.