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

Georgia Straight Jazz Society AGM
December 3rd, 2015

President’s Report to the
Annual General Meeting

Once again, I'm happy to welcome you to our Annual General Meeting. It has been another good year for our Society, and I'm pleased to present you with this overview of our activities, and a measure of what we accomplished - not just over the past year, but also over the past decade, since this is our tenth anniversary year.

Yes! Ten years.

First, we are all indebted to the founding members of our little organization and the work it took to establish Thursday night jazz at the Elks' Hall. From those early jams and informal gatherings, we have evolved into what many visiting musicians tell us is the best jazz venue on Vancouver Island, and BC. This has happened thanks to the dedication of 22 or so volunteers and a Board commitment to making GSJS the premier jazz society it has become. This is reinforced by a culture under which our audiences primarily come to listen to the music, and that's a behaviour I have been told repeatedly by our performers that sets us apart from others; we drive the standard of music higher because the musicians are aware of our attention, and recognition of individual solos within numbers. Bill Street, our concert planning director, is now regularly approached by artists from across the country, the US and even Europe, requesting available dates, and Courtenay has become a regular venue on various bands' national tours. Bill's challenge has been to find a comfortable balance between local, regional and national talent. He often refers to this as herding cats, but he's become a very good shepherd.

But my thanks shouldn't just single out a single Board member; Anne Lawrie has mastered the art of encouraging our volunteers to select their preferred events, and in turn the volunteers have become very adept at backing up each other, or stepping into the breach at short notice. That is a hallmark of a great volunteer organization. As membership director Anne has also kept a good record of our numbers believe it or not, we currently have 161 memberships, which cover about 240 people. John Heintz has remained our stalwart secretary, managing to turn most of our Board minutes around within a few hours of the meeting. Jackie crafted a wise budget and made sound financial recommendations, steering us under budget yet one more time. Dave White made several overtures to representatives in SD71 to encourage them to participate as performers or audience in our activities. We still await the fruit of his endeavours. Dave has accepted a university teaching position in China, and regrettably will be unable to continue as a Board member. Finally, Yvonne has done a masterful redesign of our web site, a task which she undertook a year ago, and the result is there to see and enjoy. As well, she posts my press releases onto the web site each week, and summarizes them onto Facebook. She also keeps really interesting statistics on the number of online visits we receive, and advises us about the steady growth in the way our followers use digital media. For my part, press release writing and sending out a weekly friendly reminder to all of our members has been a pleasure.

In addition, I would like to thank the photographers from Comox Valley Camera Club for their continued enthusiasm and dedication for building one of the finest galleries of jazz performers anywhere in Canada. For those of you who have never taken the time to view their work via the link from our web site, I encourage you to do so; it's an amazing resource, and testament to our activities, offering a valuable dividend to all the musicians who perform on our stage, since they also gain access to professional quality work for their own use and reference.

The 2014-2015 performance year included 37 Thursday Night Jazz events. A summary of the numbers reveals much about our success, and the importance of our activities within the arts community: ? Our average attendance was 75 ? We had a total of 2758 "bums in seats" ? Our total receipts at the door was just shy of $30,000 ? We paid out over $21,000 to musicians, and ? $2,500 was paid out to charity (Len Wilkie Tribute, and the Nepal Earthquake for Canadian Red Cross)

As well, we jointly sponsored three fine summer concerts at The Gardens on Anderton, and for yet one more year, experienced a disappointing resistance from our potential audience. I'm unsure of the reason for this, whether it's a slightly out of town location or the fact that we're in competition with so many other arts activities in the valley at summer time, it's been frustrating: a lot of hard work organizing and coordinating jazz events out of our regular season, for very little support (a total attendance for all three concerts was about 400 people). It had been our aspiration that we would grow this event into a summer weekend festival of jazz, but it hasn't turned out that way. For this reason the Board has decided to drop the summer outdoor concerts altogether, quit worrying about the weather and finances, take a break, and focus on what we do best - Thursday concerts.

An important change occurred during the summer months. The Avalanche Bar changed its licence so that under-age patrons can come onto the premises, accompanied by an adult. So if you know any young people who have a musical interest, please consider inviting them to listen to live jazz music.

While on the subject of young people, I have to report that the Liam Grimm Bursary was not awarded this year, because there wasn't a deserving applicant. This money remains in the Bursary Fund and will be supplemented by an additional amount from this year's revenues. If more than one worthy application is received this spring, we will award more than one bursary.

I will close by adding my sincere thanks to Devin, and his terrific staff who look after us so well each week. The renovations a year ago were undertaken with no request or contribution on our part, and the white linen tablecloths and the Thursday Night Jazz Dinner Specials were entirely their idea. Both have made The Avalanche Bar and Grill seem even more welcoming and lounge-like than when we first approached them, cap in hand without a home, nearly three years ago. It's a symbiotic relationship that has allowed us both to prosper.

I look forward to another year of fine live jazz music, and a continuation of our growth, both in terms of our support and the quality of our performances. One thing I would ask of all our members: during the next year, would you each invite three friends to join you at jazz? It's important that we continue to offer the opportunity for more people (younger people?) to expose themselves to jazz, and to appreciate the calibre of music we enjoy. It has been my pleasure and honour to serve the Society. Let's continue to keep live jazz alive!

Respectfully submitted,

Malcolm Holt


Georgia Straight Jazz Society

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