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Despite economic woes and battles, Salt Lake City Jazz Festival lives on

Published August 28, 2012 4:20 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Salt Lake jazz Festival head Jerry Floor is excited about the impressive line-up he has assembled for this year's festival. though he is frustrated at the lack of support he perceives he is receiving from past partners. "We didn't have the funding to do the whole enchilada," he said. Once free, the event is charging $16 for admission.

The City has cut its support of the festival from as high as $45,000 during Mayor Anderson's tenure to $5,000 this year, Floor said. "As our 'Title Sponsor,' the City's 86-percent reduction of our funding has been a very difficult pill to swallow, but we appreciate any and all help we can get," Floor said. "As soon as the {Mayor Ralph Becker] administration came in, the money dried up."

Floor also was upset at the Downtown Alliance, which he said pulled its $2,500 support from the festival close to the last minute.

In a letter to Downtown Alliance executive director Jason Mathis, Floor wrote, "When Downtown Alliance notified us that $2,500 was all they could do to support us, it was painful, but we decided to go forward with the attitude that we will put on the best event possible. We dutifully made cuts in our expenses to make sure the event was all it could be only to find out that [the Alliance] could not spare $2,500 out of his budget for an event that included major educational benefits to young and old at the [University of Utah] an expanded second day for the Festival itself. Believe me, this has been tough. There are board members that are recommending that we remove Salt Lake City's name from the event for the future and you are simply fortifying their position. We will have the event with or without the Downtown Alliance and, regardless of the fallout, will not soon forget that when we were facing this difficult economy the Downtown Alliance abandoned us."

In response, The Mayor's Office told the Tribune that "Prior to Mayor [Ralph] Becker's tenure, the process for applying for City event funding was very fragmented and selective. Some events were exclusively given City funding with no competitive process for other events to apply or criteria to follow. Additionally, individual departments and divisions were sometimes heavily lobbied by event organizers to waive fees for particular services."

The Mayor's Office continued: "The City now has a centralized cost recovery process, implemented through the special events office. Each event is now charged fairly for utilized services, but is also given the opportunity to receive money through a Special Events Fund (SEF) to offset these costs ... In 2010 and 2011, the Jazz Festival was given Tier 1 funding, similar to the Arts Festival, Pride and EVE. The Jazz Festival's attendance has diminished significantly over the past few years and did not demonstrate the needed criteria for a 2012 Tier 1 event. Secondly, as the City has opened up the process for other events to apply, SEF has become much more competitive."

For his part, Mathis pointed to the initial application submitted by Floor, which specified that the festival would be held over three days at the Gallivan Center. He responded to Floor's criticism through a letter shared with The Tribune. "We have a very limited budget this year to help support downtown events," Mathis said. "In April, when you approached The Downtown Alliance about sponsoring this year's Jazz Festival, it was slated to run as a major music festival from August 31 to September 2 in downtown Salt Lake City ... Based on a multi-day event at Gallivan Plaza, we agreed to provide limited sponsorship funds. When we learned, just a few weeks ago, that the downtown portion of the Jazz Festival had been cut to a single Sunday afternoon and evening, we had to reconsider our support ... There are hundreds of downtown events every year and the Alliance is not in a financial position to support them all. This is unfortunate, because I really would like to."

Mathis also had another concern in regards to the festival. With half of the festival being held at the University of Utah, half of the event would not be held downtown. "As you know, our mission is very specific to downtown," he wrote. "It would be inappropriate for us to use the very limited funds paid by downtown property owners, for the purpose of supporting events downtown, to subsidize educational efforts outside of the Central Business District. I certainly wish you every success, but it is hard to justify the same resources we committed in April when the impact to the downtown community has been so dramatically cut. I wish we could be more helpful."

Floor remains hurt. "I'm not angry at anybody," he said. "I'm just disappointed."

2012 Salt Lake City Jazz Festival Saturday, Sept. 1 at University of Utah's David Gardner Hall; Free and open to public9 a.m. • 'Playing Together for Maximum Performance," Westminster College Faculty Quartet9 a.m. • "Troubleshooting the Big Band Rhythm Section," Jay Lawrence, Denson Angulo, Ken Green, Ira Nepus10 a.m. • "From Louis Armstrong to Paul McCartney," Ira Nepus10 a.m. • "From Buddy Rich to Hollywood," Chuck Findley11 a.m. • "Compositional Approaches: Conceptual vs. Technical," Russell Schmidt11 a.m. • "Improvisation — In the Key of Rhythm," Greg Floor, Vincent FalconeNoon • Lunch break1:15 p.m. • Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra performance with Deana Martin and othersNote • All attendees receive $5 voucher for discounted admission to Sunday's eventsSunday, Sept. 2 at Gallivan Center; $16 admission1 p.m. • The Hot Club of Zion2 p.m. • Kathy Kosins with the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra3:30 p.m. • Redtet — University of Utah Faculty Jazz Group4:30 p.m. • Dave Hall & Friends5 p.m. • Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra with Emilee Floor, Churck Findley, Ira Nepus, Greg Floor and more6:30 p.m. • The Drones7:30 p.m. • Emilee Floor8:30 p.m. • Deana Martin with Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra directed by Vincent Falcone9:30 p.m. • Tower of Power