Blaine Jazz Festival hitting higher and higher notes
fourth annual Blaine Jazz Festival gets underway this
weekend with a dramatically expanded program, a widening
base of support and the fourth straight increase in the
number of out of town student musicians attending – some
coming from as far away as Colorado.
The sponsoring Pacific Arts Association (PAA), working with both the city of Blaine and Blaine school district, learned last winter of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s interest in sponsoring 10 full-tuition scholarships out of a fund they use to offer training to gifted but needy students. Having such support offered by one of the premier performing concert orchestras in the world shows a level of confidence in the Blaine program that is beginning to draw attention and significant support from others, said PAA board president Bob Boulé.
For example, soon after the death of Army Sergeant Julian Melo in last December’s cafeteria bombing in Mosul, his family started a fund in his name to provide musical instruments for Iraqi students in Mosul. They met with some initial success, and when they heard about the Blaine jazz camp from an Army medical officer about to go overseas and who has relatives in Blaine, they began a funding effort to provide jazz camp scholarships for American military dependents and, hopefully, Iraqi music students as well.
At press time, the Army was still involved in negotiating such things as visa applications for prospective Iraqi students, so their attendance this year was uncertain, but money for the tuition and transportation from Iraq has already been raised. Boulé said this is part because of the quality and substance of Blaine’s program as shown by the support it has been given by institutions like the Philharmonic.
That endorsement helped recruit faculty like Daniel Schnyder, an internationally known saxophone player with dozens of compositions to his credit, many of them major orchestral works, who recently worked with Simon Shaheen, Peter Herbert, Marcel Kalife and Jamey Haddad on projects to merge Arab music elements with jazz and classical music, making the Blaine Jazz Festival a good place to bring musically inclined Iraqi students.
The week will be videotaped for a production that will be narrated in both English and Arabic and sent to their parents for them to show music students in Iraq, for whom scholarship money to attend next year’s event is currently being raised, Boulé said, “and they’ll get it, because not only is there a need, the high quality level of this program is easy to show. No one, anywhere, has better instructors or a better setting for this kind of thing.”
Another factor affecting attendance is support from the area’s premier jazz outlet, KPLU in Tacoma, that has signed on as a co-sponsor. “It basically means they’re going to give us on-air publicity,” said festival founder and producer Sandy Wolf, “which, given their audience and credibility, is invaluable for getting the word out.”
Boulé also said the PAA board began an endowment fund this spring to guarantee a certain level of support for the festival that will increase each year as the endowment fund grows, spurred on by matching funds from several local benefactors Boulé declined to name.
“Beyond the recognition we’re getting which is nice, it’s exciting to see Blaine people getting behind and supporting Blaine activities, because the festival’s only as good as public participation makes it.”
The rapid growth in the area-wide popularity of Blaine’s Old Fashioned Fourth of July is a good example, Boulé continued, “because that didn’t just happen. It’s because of a lot of work over the past several years by a lot of people who realize that these municipal projects work only if people work together instead of using them as some kind of ego trip.
The number of people who came to town this last Monday ought to get us all excited about what’s going on here, and what can go on in the future.”