Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Relationship Status: It's Complicated

If Facebook extended their relationship status indicators to include organizations, I'd have to select "It's Complicated" between myself and the Hartford Jazz Society.  In my first five years in Connecticut I made multiple attempts to initiate a relationship, with e-mails, letters and phone messages; none of which were returned.  Several years later I was invited to attend, share opinions and my expertise at an organizational planning sessions (which was mandated for them to receive grant funding).  Aside from the guests, there were no familiar faces in the room from audiences at my gigs, or performance venues I frequented at the time.  Most were (somewhat) elderly gentlemen.  Shortly after this encounter, I was asked to join their Board of Directors, which I agreed to do, for a period, after examining their stated aims and purposes, to which I enthusiastically agree and wholeheartedly endorse.  Idealistically, I had high hopes of breathing new vitality into an organization which I perceived to be dieing.  Their motto, "Keeping Jazz Alive", ironically reinforces this notion.  If mere survival is the goal, you're in trouble as an organization.

The board has expressed the desire to see new, younger faces in their ranks and audiences, but yet their list of annual events has remained unexamined and unchanged, for years (perhaps decades).  Either these event don't appeal to younger people or there are obstacles preventing them from being there.  Take the annual cruise for example:  No children are allowed and it lasts for 7 hours.  What young couple can afford two $50 tickets plus an additional $80 for babysitting.  $180 + food + beverages = one expensive date!  And for what?!  To hear a student ensemble or local group?

For now, it is my understanding that the cruise still manages to generate some funds... that is, until the remainder of the old club is too frail to attend or passes on.

On the contrary, the Valentine's dance, also priced at $50 / ticket, has been known to lose money.  The year during which I served on the board, one of the senior board members paid the balance from his own pocket.  If it generated a substantial amount of income towards accomplishing the organization's aims and purposes (such as scholarship funds or producing educational and cultural programs for schools, community centers, and colleges, I suppose I could palate the notion of dancing, although the event frankly has no appeal to me.  Again, it is an expensive date to which persuading my social peers to attend would be difficult, if not uncomfortable.

As much as I have enjoyed the concerts at the Wadsworth Aetna Theatre, they too are expensive.  I usually attend without my wife.  Maybe I'm cheap, but I view $30 as an expensive ticket price in Hartford for jazz.

I express these views "in love", because I want to see the organization succeed and thrive.  I was saddened and angered to learn of the internal robbery of funds, but perhaps it has created an opportunity for reevaluation, change and new directions.

In my next blog posting, I will share some ideas, with the intent of keeping things positive.  If someone must complain and point out problems, it is only right to offer some proposed solutions.  Ever up and onward.

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