Every June, the summer is kicked off by the much loved TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Just completing its 29th year, the festival is voted as one of the best music festival in Vancouver and brings together jazz lovers from all over the world. I have seen many changes over the years but what remains the same is the spirit, dedication, and love of jazz that the people at Coastal Jazz & Blues Society bring into fruition. I have been lucky enough to be contracted to work for the festival since 2004; starting in the box office for the first few years and in recent years as a venue manager at various locations around the city. In this blog I’ll be sharing with you a few of my favourite festival moments through my eyes as a venue manager.
Being an insider allows me to experience first-hand the reach of the festival. I get to hear stories from staff, volunteers and patrons that date back to the beginning of the festival. From the volunteer parties at the mansion in South Granville to how the festival has evolved over the years. Stage managers chime in and tell me about how the stage set up has changed, and the volunteers reminisce about the music and the friends they’ve made over the years. We share meaningful moments, heartfelt laughter, and make connections all while hearing spectacular jazz.
At a festival concert, when it’s time to open the venue, the anticipation is BIG.
I peek outside and see that the crowds are all lined up. I walk backstage to make sure that they are set to go. On my walk back to the front I check to see that everyone is in their place. Once ready, the call is made to open the doors. The people rush in and there’s excitement in the air. It’s a mad dash to find the best place to sit to watch their artist(s) of choice. It’s the best feeling watching it happen and seeing the festival’s efforts come together. The Jazz festival introduces me to some remarkable talent and the music is mind blowing. You know the music’s good when you catch yourself bopping your head and look around to see that you are not alone. I love being transported to another place when I have a few minutes to sit down and rest. Sometimes, if the music’s extra good, like with the Budos Band’s afro-soul, I’ll sneak in a dance.
One of my all time favourite memories was at the Maceo Parker concert at the Commodore Ballroom in 2008. For those of you who don’t know who Maceo is – he’s a funk and soul saxophonist legend. He has played with the iconic James Brown, and Parliament and the Funkadelic and now plays under his own name. I remember the night clearly; I went to grab more passes from the backstage manager. While he went upstairs I waited for him side stage. In the midst of everything, I looked up and I was standing next to Maceo – THE Maceo Parker. I smiled and he gave me the musicians nod right before hitting the stage. Amazing. I have never gotten the musicians nod before and to get that one is a special one.
The festival has given me many great experiences and I love what they do. Until next year.