By Ginette Barton-Sinkia
The organizers of the Ottawa International Jazz Festival are holding a fund-raiser April 2 to raise money for this summer’s festival, which they say could be hurt by local government’s funding cuts.
“There is not a big local outlet for jazz ensembles to perform,” says local musician Bill Jupp, leader of Bill Jupp Big Band. “Without the Jazz Festival there wouldn’t be much.”
Jupp’s ensemble will be featured at the benefit concert in the National Library of Canada, where New York’s Warren Vaché — who once played in the Benny Goodman Band -— will also perform.
Paul Rolland, an OIJF organizer, says they have no goal for the amount of money needed to be raised. Rolland says they won’t know how much they will need to raise until early April when they hear how deep municipal government funding cuts to arts festivals will go.
“We have to get things moving ahead for this year’s festival,” says Rolland. “We really don’t know when we’re getting the funding, from the (local) government agencies. So we have to take it upon ourselves to raise the money on our own.”
The OIJF is also asking its staff and music fans to write letters to Ottawa City Hall in protest of yearly funding cuts.
A 1997 survey, from the Ottawa Tourism and Convention Bureau, showed the annual festival puts $1 million into the city.
Rolland says that besides live performances, OIJF’s organizing committee will also hold its first silent auction. He says local businesses have contributed $10,000 in gifts — including hot air balloon rides, weekend getaways and lunch with New Democrat MP and playwright Wendy Lill — for the auction.
Jupp says government cuts have forced venues like the National Arts Centre to feature big-name performers to draw crowds. He says these venues are no longer interested in the local scene.
“I think one of their goals should be to promote Canadian talent,” says Jupp. “But it seems to me that all the acts that come out from (the NAC) are not from Canada.”
Scott Symes, manager of Vineyards, an Ottawa restaurant that features local jazz music twice a week, agrees with Jupp. He says there is a large pool of local talent in Ottawa, but many performers are still unknown.
“The quality of jazz in Ottawa is unbelievable for a small city,” says Symes. “I think events like the festival are essential. It heightens the level of the local talent and any type of exposure helps.”
Jupp says one problem facing local performers is that local music critics from the major papers rarely review their concerts.
“Most local groups that do local concerts don’t get the benefit of a review from the local media,” says Jupp.
“The only thing they seem to review is the big-name acts from the (United) States. If something local is worth reviewing, then it should be reviewed.”
For now, Bill Jupp’s Big Band — which is releasing its first CD at the benefit — is relying on this summer’s jazz festival to give it as much exposure as possible.
But without public support for the benefit, local musicians may not have a chance to develop into viable acts.