At the Avalanche Bar & Grill 275 8th Street, Courtenay

Georgia Straight Jazz Society AGM
January 17, 2013

President’s Report to the
Annual General Meeting

Welcome to the AGM of the Georgia Straight Jazz Society. For my report I’m trying to follow the advice of a Board member very close to me, who said, “Keep it short this year!”

We enjoy a symbiotic relationship: The Elks’ Home, Georgia Straight Jazz Society, Volunteers, our local newspapers, and performers all combine to sustain each other. The result is unique and, based on what we have learned from some of our out-of-town performers, the envy of other communities that for one reason or another, despite their efforts, are unable to duplicate what we have.

Last year we purchased the Yamaha keyboard after a long debate about whether or not we should buy a piano, or “go electronic”. This year, we took the plunge and invested over $7000 in our new speakers, followed by a further purchase of the new sound board and snake. These were somewhat courageous decisions based on our $5 (now $6) per head donations, where less than 10% of revenues actually end up in the Society’s coffers. But the sound is so much improved; the investment speaks for itself. And, thanks to Jackie’s stewardship, we’re still solvent.

We also cautiously branched out last summer when we organized a well attended “Jazz In The Gardens” event, in association with the Anderton Therapeutic Garden Society. We proved to ourselves that perhaps there is an opportunity to plan further events outside of our regular September – June season.

Your Board:

  • A terrific mix of people and talents. Thanks to you all for your hard work and dedication. Publicity, fund raising, administration, bookings, web page management, etc. are so easily taken for granted, but without them, we could not function as we do.
  • We’ve been fortunate to add John Heintz as our secretary, and he has quickly added an active and contributing role to the diverse skills of Anne (VP and Director responsible for Memberships and Volunteer coordination), Kim (web page management), Jackie (Financial Management), Bill (Thursday Night Bookings) and Don (Equipment Management). I am indebted to you all, because without you we would not be succeeding the way we are.
  • Your Society is in good hands, and in great financial shape.

Your Volunteers

  • The Society is supported by about 15 committed individuals who make this whole thing work: sound, set-up, money handling, and greeting are overlooked by so many, but these are the activities which make our Thursday and Sunday performances and special events possible. It’s so easy for people and performers to arrive on a performance night, to sit down and enjoy two hours of great live music, without giving a thought for what makes it possible. I invite you all to personally thank the people who make it happen – now, and on the night. One attaboy is so precious!
  • Our search for new volunteers is constant: if you are able to assist, or know potentially interested individuals, please step forward and let us know. Volunteer coordination is like managing a revolving door: people change due to life circumstances and it’s an endless task to maintain the roster. We are able to match people’s skills and interests to the jobs that need to be done, and we’re always prepared to train or mentor new volunteers.


Your Performers

  • Just as it’s easy to take all the background work for granted, so too it’s easy to overlook the fact that we are incredibly fortunate to have such a wealth of musical talent in our mid Island community.
  • We are indebted to about 150 musicians and vocalists who make the Elks’ stage sparkle during the course of our performance year. From trios to 17 piece big bands, these people add light and joy to our lives with their artistic talent and hard work. Without these folk, we would be nothing. Thank you all for sharing your talent with us.

The Elks’

  • We must never take our venue for granted; the sweetheart arrangement we enjoy with the Elks’ Lodge #60 is the underpinning of the Jazz Society as we know it. Their home, thanks to their generosity, is our home. We comfortably occupy their lounge 15% of the evenings each year; we hang our paraphernalia on their walls and we store our precious possessions in their building. Thank you! Especially to Lisa and Karen.

So I look to the future with confidence. The four components mentioned above combine to provide us with a successful formula, but I’m aware that we really cannot rest on our laurels: we have challenges to face if we are to continue to buck the general trend away from jazz music. Georgia Straight Jazz Society has a reputation for audiences who primarily come to listen to the music, rather than treat it as an incidental backdrop to general conversation.

Our next immediate challenge will be an exciting Valentine’s Day fundraiser when we aspire to gather sufficient funds for a complete lighting system. You will learn more about that very soon.

Your Board has struggled with the debate about how much we should request for Thursday night jazz performances, and how and when we collect the money. Our current request for $6 per head (which now includes funds necessary to pay SOCAN dues, plus HST) is ignored by many people who continue to offer $5 or less, or even nothing. We will never deny anyone entry as a matter of policy, but (I have been told by people in our audience) our financial request is far too modest: it should be $10. We have shied away from appearing “greedy”, but after looking at the cost of other clubs and venues, I can tell you there is nowhere that offers our calibre of music for so little. The Board will continue to grapple with this topic, cognizant that the principal beneficiaries of any additional revenue will be the musicians and vocalists to whom we owe so much. You may not believe it, but there are nights when individual musicians receive less for an evening’s work than the SOCAN fee. Is that fair?
We have learned that Sunday Night Concerts can command increased ticket prices, in response to higher calibre musicians. Both of this year’s premium concerts were sold out, unlike some of the lesser known artists where attendance was poor, and the Society lost money. Again, the Board will continue to walk the fine line between profit and loss, aware that we are a non profit society yet not wishing to throw money away.

Young musicians have not featured as strongly as we would have liked during the past year. This is not through lack of invitation or opportunity: we will continue to encourage students and schools to make their Thursday night appearances on our stage. Along the same lines, your Board expanded the eligibility requirements for the Liam Grimm Bursary to include students already attending jazz music programs at post secondary institutions, due to the absence of suitable candidates from high schools in our region: we even received a “wild card” application from a student not even planning to study music.

From this, you can appreciate the diversity of concerns, topics and activities that must be addressed to keep the Society alive and well. You can expect same attention to continue as we head into another year.

In conclusion, I thank those dedicated folk who attend our performances, members and non members alike; we work hard to maintain a high calibre of live music, but without their choice to come and listen to what we have on offer, we would not have the Society we have today.

And most of all, I thank you – the people attending our AGM – for your continuing support and interest in the life of our organization.

Malcolm Holt
President, Georgia Straight Jazz Society, January 17th 2013

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