July 29 Board announcement with comments

July 29 Board announcement with comments

Press Release from the Board of Directors

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival Announces
Hiatus of Jazz Festival for 2011 Season
and
Renewed Focus on Music Education Program

July 29, 2010

Today the Healdsburg Jazz Festival Board of Directors announced that the organization will focus the resources of the organization on its signature music education program, Operation Jazz Band for the 2011 season. Pat Templin the Board Chair said, “Operation Jazz Band has been a highly successful music education program in the community. Our mission is all about stimulating interest in jazz and educating young people about the important role of jazz as an indigenous American art form.”

Operation Jazz Band has been offered to local area schools by The Healdsburg Jazz Festival for the past 10 years. The annual spring program that is led by musician Babatunde Lea introduces 5th grade students in six different area schools to jazz through an innovative week-long program that brings professional musicians into the classroom. The week ends with more than 500 students attending a concert where the musicians perform music that they have introduced to the students over the course of the week.”

The board also announced that it intends to pause the jazz festival for the coming year and to study alternatives to the current jazz festival. These explorations will include the overall length of the jazz festival and the variety and genres of the music that are presented, with the core still being exceptional jazz. The board also intends to continue a dialogue with local community members and businesses that began this year to help the festival explore ways to create a successful organization.

Pat Templin, the Board Chair, cited 3 years of operating deficits and the need to find a model that can be sustainable for the non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization as the primary reason for the need to pause the festival and return to its primary mission of music education in the schools. “We have worked very hard as a board to involve the Healdsburg community and local businesses in the festival. The downturn in the economy was certainly a factor in our decision to take the next year to study our options. We have lost financial support from a number of sponsors and community members over the last 3 years. There also seems to be a more limited audience for pure jazz in the community as evidenced by lower ticket sales. There may be an opportunity to broaden the offering in the future. We need to find a winning model that will interest more people and businesses in the community to get involved, provide financial support and to attend a revised music festival,” said Templin.

Jessica Felix who is the founder and artistic director of The Healdsburg Jazz Festival for the past 12 years, will be leaving the organization. Templin said, “The board would like to thank Jessica Felix for her passion and tireless efforts on behalf of the festival since its inception.” Templin also said, “The board will be working together over the next year to continue advancing the reach of Operation Jazz Band in the local schools and to examine our options. We will retain minimal support staff to handle administrative tasks that may be required over the coming year. Our main goal through this process is to continue bringing music education to our local students while keeping jazz as a core component of our programming for future successful festivals.

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival, Inc., is a non-profit corporation. Among its other projects are jazz education programs held in area elementary and secondary schools to teach area youth about jazz music and its role in American heritage.

The release (full release PDF available at this link) addresses changes in direction, priorities and staffing of the organization. Comments are welcome below.

46 Comments

  1. Maybe the press democrat will sponsor a SMOOOOOTHY JAZZ concert, you know, with some high-class elevator muzak to match
    the rest of the paper…

  2. Jessica is the “Healdsburg Jazz Festival”, without her direction and musical taste the Festival will loose it’s relevance. Please renegotiate this bad decision.

  3. Jessica Felix is the heart and soul of this festival; musicians have booked and participated largely because of her relationship with each of them and for years, well before she arrived in Healdsburg. The Board members have shown little resourcefulness in finding a way to bridge the financial gap. The festival has matured into a widely respected and locally loved annual event. I could not be more disappointed or disgusted by the Board’s actions. Surely there was a better choice than this.

    It wasn’t broke but the fix after this move will be sorely uphill. Not to mention the lack of goodwill with the volunteers and community who have supported this event since its inception. I am heartsick and mad.

  4. I have worked with Jessica Felix since 1997 when she presented Charles Lloyd and Billy Higgins
    in a world premiere duo concert at the Raven Theater. The idea of a “jazz concert” in Healdsburg was almost like speaking in a foreign language. But through her passion for the music and loving care for each individual involved, no matter how famous they are, or are not, Jessica has opened the ears and hearts of the Healdsburg community and schools to all kinds of music.

    Jazz is a many splendored thing that comes from this soil – it has many different ways of being expressed, but from its early roots it has always been an evolving art form. Jessica is fully aware of this and has managed to bring a full spectrum of sound to her small town of Healdsburg. As someone who manages and books concerts all over the world, I am well aware of the fact that 2010, in particular is a very very bad for concert attendance, and therefor for the overall financial success of any given concert. We were recently inAthens for the Hellenic Festival, a national event, and they were forced to cancel 1/2 of their concerts for financial reasons, not to mention
    existing deficits. As were many festivals throughout the world this year. (We were among the fortunate who did not get canceled.) This reference to ‘Pure” jazz is confusing and a misnomer – even smooth jazz or pop acts, have been canceled and or lesser audiences these days.

    The stamp of a good festival is an artistic director who is knowledgeable about every aspect of jazz and stays true to their personal aesthetic. Trends come and go. Great art lives forever. Jessica Felix has an eye and ear for great art.

  5. Think these actions through one more time; you might see it differently if you held a public town meeting on the Festival. Together, we have something very special in this town.

    I moved from Seattle WA to Healdsburg CA because of the jazz festival and the local jazz, wine and restaurant scene (Plus, of course, the very warm and friendly people of Healdsburg and the area.

    I have continually been encouraged by the enthusiasm, effectiveness and musical vision and contract of Jessica Felix who has become the “heartbeat of the city. Her support of literally hundreds of local Northern California musicians has nurtured a music scene with a world-wide reputation.

    Both the Healdsburg Jazz Festival and the four-to-five night a week jazz scene have become an increasingly-important part of Healdsburg’s national reputation. This action of cancelling next year’s festival and “sacking” Jessica Felix could be the worst thing that ever happened to this lovely town.

    Are their prohibitionists out there ready to eliminate the wine tasting rooms, harass visitors with parking tickets, use regular inspections to close the restaurants on “trumped up” charges, are we going to double real estate taxes or have out won sales tax to encourage the local boutiques to close.

    I doubt it; Healdsburg’s strength is that we encourage the growth and health of local businesses, wineries and restaurants.

    Let’s admit that the Board has a financial challenge ahead of itself,, that it needs Jessica Felix to maintain the reputation and focus of the festival — this year’s was one of the best ever — and “cajole” world class musicians to play here using that unique Healdsburg hospitality to welcome and entertain them.

    You might have discussed this more forcefully with the Festival members and ticket buyers and sought a middle-ground such as a temporary merging to some local festivals until the economic crisis pasts. Let’s make a long-term commitment to making it work instead of giving up in the face of intermediate-term challenges.

    A Can-Do, Keep-the-beat-moving, Healdsburg hospitality-driven plan is needed and no one knows how to do that as well as Jessica Felix. You can find a different administrator who can do some of the administrative work but you won’t find a hard-nose, persistent, experienced festival director with the musical vision of Jessica Felix.

    Let’s keep Healdsburg jazz-friendly and hip and keep the big city music advantages in our cozy little town.

    Build the Festival and Jazz Scene and they will come.

    Bill Donoghue

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