Q: What got you into jazz, or music in general?
A: I believe Jazz is the most communicative of music genres. There is improvisation, jamming… you don’t need to know the people you’re playing with, but you can still make music together. Jamming is the key aspect of jazz music, and is the medium with which jazz musicians communicate to audiences, the community, and the world.
I believe that jazz is communication, and an accessible bridge into the arts and culture of our community.
Q: What made you want to start a festival focusing on undergraduate jazz musicians?
A: Undergraduate musicians are the group of people who will be leading the younger generation 10 to 20 years from now. High school students, middle school students… they are often creatively limited because they can’t do things without their parents’ permission. Undergrads can decide for themselves what they want to do, and are able to engage in any creative endeavor they wish to. Undergraduate musicians are therefore the future of the music. If they have no means of showcasing and networking properly, creative music will not be able flourish, and contemporary times would become known as the dark age of music, in opposition to the golden age of music musicians of past decades have been able to create.
Regarding the festival, my thought was “if we don’t have it, I’ll make it!” That’s how I conceived the idea in 2013; I discussed the idea with Becky Hargreaves, the vice president of our organization and in 2014, we began planning. We got approved as a nonprofit organization on January 30, 2015, and things really took off from there.
Q: I know you were also involved in jazz festivals in Korea could you speak to some of the similarities and differences between the festivals in Korea and Toronto?
A: (laughs) They are quite different! I’ve been involved with planning the Korea Undergraduate Jazz Festival, which is now in its the 8th anniversary. I’ve also planned the Hann River Jazz Fest, which was a larger festival, and the Yeouido Cherry Blossom festival, which had 300, 000 attendees as well as large corporate sponsors, and was the largest festival I’ve been involved with.
I feel the community is much more supportive in Canada. Also, the creative liberty festival directors have in Canada is much greater, and the chances to receive sponsorship and funding is greater in Canada than Korea. In Korea, no matter how hard I work, if I don’t have the proper networking or the right contacts, it is close to impossible to pull off a festival like this. In Canada, I felt much more support from local council and government, and they were accessible and invested in us throughout the planning and execution of the festival.
Q: How does a festival such as this come together? (How many people, volunteers, time invested, etc.)
A: Last year, I spent 90% of my time planning and organizing TUJF. From Oct. 2014 to July 2015, my whole focus was on TUJF. From March 2015 to June 7th 2015 our executive team was spending up to 18 hours a day putting the festival together. Other members were doing multiple hours a day as well, but even with their help, there was always work to do.
To put these festivals on, we first had to get approved by the federal government as a non profit organization. Then we have to secure a venue. In 2015, this took quite a long time, as there were other sporting events happening for the Pan Am games which were occupying most of the venues in Toronto at that time. After securing a venue, we had to get the stages, PA, backline, and all of the nuts and bolts of the festival booked fans, chairs, bars, tables, tents, we had to reserve them all.
At the same time, we had to get all the funding, trying to get as many sponsors as possible. Most grant applications were due in February, so during January and February 2015 most of our time was spent filling out applications for those and it took a really long time to complete these. Then we had to print materials, flyers, banners, other branding materials that needed to be designed and made.
We have a board of directors, which is made up of five people, as well a five executive members. We started from there, then we gained a few more members last year to help us more effectively organize this years events. Then we have numerous volunteers who help with smaller but equally important tasks involved with the festival. This year we added an advisory board, comprised of Ian Terry, Stott Waddell, Andy Pryde, Kirk MacDonald and Mark Kelso. They help us with determining the musician lineup, networking, overall business parts, and the production of the festival.
Q: How has your vision for the festival developed since last year, which was the inaugural year of TUJF?
A: The festival this year is smaller, but more focused. This year, our ‘focus’ is actually our focus (laughs): focus on one day, do everything on one day; opening night, one venue; festival, one venue; masterclasses, one venue. So we could make better quality with a focus, and also, this year we don’t have to plan out our festival over three days and worry about the weather, extra payments, and all the other stresses of a multiday festival.
Although we are focusing one one day, we still tried to provide as many opportunities as possible. We have three stages, three masterclasses with 400 seats each, and almost 30 vendors, including major sponsors such as TD, Yamaha and Kia. Without all our sponsors, this festival could not happen!
This year, we got almost 50 submissions! We could only accommodate 17 out of the 50, and we were focused on musical variety, and providing audiences with energetic performances through energetic young performers.
Q: What are some of the struggles of organizing an event such as this?
A: Last year, funding was the biggest challenge, followed by finding an appropriate venue. Our biggest struggles were the unforeseen issues we had while planning the festival, but after going through the festival last year, we are much better equipped for this years festival. The organization of the festival this year went more smoothly, although it was still a major time commitment.
Also, we have a lot of video footage from last year, as well as documents which we accumulated from last year’s festival. Now we can prove how effective our festival was, so this year we can show that we can organize a fun and effective jazz festival. We have had much more positive response from the community, sponsors, and musicians this year, and are looking forward to seeing it all come together on September 10.
Q: Where do you see the festival in 5 years? 10 years? A: In 5 years, our plan is to focus on expanding the festival by including musicians from across Canada and the United States.
In 10 years, we want to turn international, and have acts come to Toronto from all over the world: Korea, Japan, China, Brazil, England… we really want to give students opportunities to network with students from other countries and backgrounds.
Q: How can we learn more and keep up to date with TUJF?
A: You can visit our website at tujazz.com, as well as our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TUJazzFest/