Home > General > The Sorry State of Jazz Funding in B.C.

The Sorry State of Jazz Funding in B.C.

September 18, 2012

It amazes me that so much good jazz can be found in B.C. given the sorry state of arts funding in this province.

BC gives less money per capita to the arts than any other province in Canada.

Yet we have more artists per capita than anywhere else, and Vancouver and Victoria have the highest concentration of all the major urban centers in the country.

You can imagine the effect this imbalance has on our jazz artists, particularly when the limited funds that are available go mostly to the big jazz societies for their once-a-year extravaganzas that are less and less about jazz and more and more about multi-genre music and big name acts.

Our own musicians, relegated to the side stages, see very little of that funding and are generally paid the paltry union scale of about $100 a gig – once a year.

Ian McDougall recently told me that he attempted to get funding from the BC Arts Council to tour his 12tet around the province but was turned down because they don’t fund tours in BC, only in the rest of Canada. The Canada Council has the same policy.

So, a BC jazz band, composed of BC artists, including Juno winners like Phil Dwyer and Campbell Ryga, can’t get money from its own provincial funding body to tour its home province.

Is it just me or is there something wrong with this picture?

Contrast this situation with Norway, a country one-third the geographical size of BC with roughly the same population where generous grants go to musicians, venues, and promoters.  The result: Norway boasts over 20 active jazz clubs and has a lively national touring scene – year round.

We could have the same in BC with groups like the Ian McDougall 12tet touring to centers like Penticton, Kelowna, Prince George, and Nelson if the money were there. But it’s not.

The funding bodies will argue that they want their limited funds to promote local artists in the rest of Canada or abroad. Indeed travel grants do allow musicians to tour across the country and sometimes internationally but mounting such a tour is difficult and expensive given our geography. That’s why it doesn’t happen very often – mostly during the jazz festival season.

It would be far better to develop a lively provincial scene that would encourage the establishment of more clubs and create a regular and practical year-round touring route for B.C. artists.

Fortunately, here in Victoria, we do have organizations like U-JAM and the Jazz Vespers folks and Up-Island there’s the Georgia Straight Jazz Society in Courtenay and TOSH in Qualicum. They are doing what they can, but they and others could do a lot more with decent funding.

More on this later.

Categories: General
  1. September 19, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Terry, Thanks so much for your feedback. It’s great to have your perspective coming from one of the cultural “have” provinces in the country. The situation here is rather pathetic.

  2. Terry Vatrt
    September 19, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Hi Rick~

    It is so good that you are writing about this topic. Moving here from Manitoba, we are dismayed by the lack of support for the arts, from the provincial and municipal levels of government. I would also add that there is a very disrespectful attitude (uneducated?) by business owners, and the general public. Musical gigs pay little, if anything. Visual artists are expected to show work without being paid. (A stunning example for us was our first visit to the Filberg Festival in Comox during the August long weekend. There were four days of musical acts, and a hundred artisans. It cost us 40 bucks for a weekend pass. 40 bucks!!! That wouldn’t get you one day at the Winnipeg Folk Fest. That is ridiculous….)
    This is in sharp contrast to Manitoba and Quebec, where the arts (visual, music, dance, theatre) are supported and embraced. Naturally, the quality of the work produced is some of the best in Canada..
    The results are obvious. The proof is in the pudding.” It seems to me talented, dedicated musicians and artists must move away to survive, or not pay attention to their art. The quality of work suffers.
    It’s an unhealthy situation (not only for the artists) but also for society. I am thankful you are beginning this discussion.

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