CNY Jazz to city: Fund existing festivals before reviving idle Jazz Fest (Your letters)

For the editor:

I am writing to express the serious concerns of the Board of Directors of Central New York Jazz Arts Foundation Inc., a local arts organization well known to many that has served the city since 1996 in public and school settings.

In our view, the Syracuse Jazz Fest promoter’s recent efforts to revive its dormant festival in locations across the city pose an existential threat to our organization, other festival producers, and the Syracuse arts community as a whole (“the Syracuse councilman proposes spending $125,000 to bring Jazz Fest back downtown in 2022,” Jan. 26, 2022). Its professed model would not only occupy Clinton Square, but would include events in urban neighborhoods with a focus on diversity, equity and access for our BIPOC community. We heartily applaud these stated goals, as they are the same goals that CNY Jazz’s summer lineup has been promoting for 20 years.

CNY Jazz created its downtown summer festival at the request of Mayor Matt Driscoll, president of a bank, local businesses and other community leaders after the Syracuse Jazz Fest moved its operations to a suburban . We did not rush into this business. Our Board of Directors engaged the services of a consultant to study the feasibility and determined that there was adequate sustainable support for an annual downtown event. Since then, we have been organizing a magnificent jazz festival every summer without fail for 19 years. Our festival continues to be an important part of Syracuse Arts Week, the showcase of the Downtown Committee’s “Festival of Festivals” that provides our region with an important vehicle for summer cultural tourism.

In 2013, an economic impact study by the respected RMS Research & Marketing Strategies found that CNY Jazz drew an audience of over 15,000 downtown that year, all without receiving program funding. city ​​or county dedicated. That same year, we helped volunteers organize the Jazz in the City urban awareness concert series, which we have continued every year since. Last year’s Jazz in the City program included a health care village to distribute personal protective equipment and public health information to thousands of urban families, and provided a mobile platform for testing and immunization in partnership with the Syracuse Community Health Center.

All of these community betterment goals were delivered with quality music to isolated urban residents, inviting minority vendors free of charge, and employing mostly minority performers. CNY Jazz has always emphasized the inclusion of BIPOC in all of our programs, especially at-risk urban youth. Our CNY Jazz Youth Orchestra (formerly the Stan Colella Parks & Recreation All-Stars), comprised primarily of students from city schools, performs annually at our festival.

Imagine how our efforts would be amplified by a six-figure annual funding injection.

As a bona fide, year-round, regional arts organization with paid staff and a professional Board of Directors, CNY Jazz looks forward to sharing the city’s anticipated upcoming funding for our model program. summer, as well as general operating support. Like our fine symphony orchestra, opera and other performing arts organizations that have a high level of annual funding need, we know full well that organizations like ours can disappear if ignored, or worse , have to fight for leftover funding after irregular events. like the Syracuse Jazz Fest are funded on a priority basis.

We understand that the arts policy is new to the city and that the city council is currently evaluating the arts funding policy for the first time, which is a daunting task. The disruption caused by the long debate on this topic is delaying crucial decisions that will affect the future of the entire arts sector and can severely hamper the ability of organizations like ours to raise funds from sources other than the city. . We believe that whatever policy the City of Syracuse adopts, it must focus solely on rescuing – the “R” of ARPA – for our existing urban arts organizations, events that are not long gone and intentionally interrupted. The city, as a decision maker, should consider how the interests of the city and surrounding region are put forward by funding redundant programs. No impartial arts agency or council charged with equitable arts funding would ever consider supporting such duplication of mission and programs.

CNY Jazz is unique because it is the only performing arts organization to produce a year-round downtown festival. We are proud of our accomplishments for our city. Our request to the public sector is simple – recognize our history of achievement and the value of our programs. Recognize our work as the primary local promoter of the socio-economic benefits of bringing this American art form to underserved constituencies. Help us continue to be an exemplary arts organization now and in the future. Producing music festivals isn’t magic, it just takes knowledge of an art form, responsive programs designed to meet the needs of the community, and a lot of hard work. CNY Jazz has all of this capability and more, for the long haul, if you turn the page and clear the air by supporting our efforts.

Larry Luttinger

Executive Director

On behalf of CNY Jazz Central Board of Directors


Ada J. Kenney