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

Georgia Straight Jazz Society AGM
January 13, 2011

President’s Report to the
Fifth Annual General Meeting

One night a band leader who was annoyed with a talkative public, took hold of the microphone and spoke to the audience in a sarcastic tone: 'I hope you people back there at the bar can hear the band okay. We can hear you perfectly!'

I just reviewed last year’s President’s Report and saw that it began with a jazz joke. My choice was one about Ray Charles or, in consideration of the beef and bouquet we received in last week’s Echo the one I just told you (Great music, but why do people talk?).

The joke focuses on a recurring topic with which the Society has had to struggle and it highlights the two hallmarks of Thursday Night Jazz at the Elks’: we’re firstly committed to experiencing live jazz of all genres and we’re here for fun! Naturally that means social and that means that some people choose to chat. We’re fortunate: Thursday Night Jazz performers in Courtenay are not as blunt as the band leader in the joke.

The joke also raises an ongoing debate: one which pits our admission by donation policy against the expectation of a few in the audience who would mandate silence during the performance. So I ask: where else can you expect to hear such tremendous jazz for a pittance, and is it fair to expect concert-type behaviour when so much of the Society’s culture is social? Especially when we have the convenience of an open bar as well? You only have to attend one of our ticketed events to see how quiet and attentive we can be as an audience! During the past year we have been approached by an increasing number of jazz musicians who would like to grace our stage – Thursdays and Sundays; and that is a true measure of our success. We have been asked to invite some of our region’s finest performers to make return appearances on our Thursday night stage (i.e. they are prepared to play for the hat), knowing full well how we are, and how we behave.

We have the fortunate convenience of a symbiotic relationship with the Elks, and a wonderful lounge atmosphere. Add to that the fine quality of our – albeit modest – sound equipment and the dedication of our volunteers who regularly turn out in all kinds of weather to make the Thursday and Sunday performances possible. The strength of our little organization is the dedication of about 20 or so people who make wonderful things happen for a regular attendance of about 100 people. I figure that we have a total of about 500 people from around our district who occasionally attend our shows. And that’s what I’m proud of: that a few diehards can make something wonderful happen for so many.

So I want to thank the volunteers who have made our last year such a great success – and I’m avoiding the trap of doing so on a named basis for fear of missing someone out and causing offence. You know who you are, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have done. In 2010 we managed to average about 100 people per show; we raised over $18,000 in performance contributions by nothing more than passing the hat (the vast majority of which was given to our performers); we paid out $500 to the Liam Grimm Bursary to Danielle Fortin of Highland Secondary School, and our fund raising efforts for the children of Haiti resulted in about $7,000 falling into the coffers of Save the Children Canada. We have been really careful with our own funds, but we finally ended our ongoing dilemma by purchasing a professional quality electric piano – an instrument that will hold its own in the hands of our finest professional performers. It seems only fair that if we aspire to attract the best musicians, we must be prepared to match that same high standard.

In addition, I would like to recognize the dedication of my Board: Dale Graham our secretary, who in addition to occasionally gracing our stage as a superb vocalist, manages to convert our rambling discussions around all manner of topics into a clear set of minutes every month; our stalwart Rick Husband who has looked after our web page and membership so diligently – as well as offered so much time and skill to set-up and sound, and the construction of our storage system back stage; Jackie Holt who has kept us on the straight and narrow with her concise financial records and management and finally, Bill Street who handled the 2010-2011 bookings like a seasoned cat herder. You’ve been a great group of people to work with.

Finally, I would like to offer our thanks to the Elks for their hospitality and allowing us to make their home our home, and add to that our specific gratitude to Lisa and Karen for their flexibility and cooperation.

To those of you who have worked so hard to make the last year so successful, thanks again; and let’s look forward to another year of great jazz, friendship and fun.

Respectfully submitted,

Malcolm Holt
Georgia Straight Jazz Society

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