Arts association appoints Kuuskmann to board

Published on Thu, May 8, 2008 by Pat Grubb

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Arts association appoints Kuuskmann to board

By Pat Grubb

Changes are underway at the Pacific Arts Association, the group that organizes the annual jazz festival and presents high quality concerts locally. Last week the association board approved the appointment and hiring of Blaine resident Martin Kuuskmann as the group’s first executive director.

Known worldwide, the Grammy-nominated bassoonist Kuuskmann is eager to take the association to a new level, he says. In an interview with The Northern Light on Monday, May 5, the Estonian-born musician said his first priority would be to address major fund-raising. “I’ll have to do some serious fund-raising and do it yesterday,” he said.

The annual jazz festival will still be the main focus of the association, Kuuskmann said, and it will be expanded to include classical music and swing bands. “It would be great if it eventually is expanded to two weeks in length.” The festival features faculty and performers from across North America and draws young musicians from the western states and Canada. Kuuskmann said he would like to see the festival become a mini-Tanglewood, a reference to the western Massachusetts music festival that now draws over 300,000 visitors annually. “An event like this would show off our city and create an internationally recognized festival, as well as being an economic benefit” he says.

Kuuskmann said he believed it was important to include the entire community in the concerts. “The acts don’t have to be classical, they could be a country band or a Celtic group. Former members of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, some of whom I know well, have expressed interest in playing here,” he said. “We need to keep ticket prices affordable so in order to get major acts, it has to be an act that draws the entire community and beyond. The Kearns audience was a perfect example, it drew people from Blaine and Vancouver,” he added, referring to a recent performance by the Irish singer in front of a 500-plus audience.

Potential corporate sponsors will definitely be on the list for Kuuskmann to call. “I’ll be working on fund-raising,” he said. “These acts are not cheap,” saying costs ranged from $4,000 to $20,000. Groups that cost $15,000 will need a sell-out, tickets costing $15 and more as well as corporate sponsorships. “We will be looking for local as well as national sponsors. This has the real potential to help Blaine and could very well influence the real estate market down the line,” he stated.

“I’m excited about the association and its prospects - what can be done. I know the interest is there; we’re a beautiful coastal community. One thing is for sure. The association has been set up very well, it makes it very easy for me,” he said, going on to talk about the role of Sandy and Bruce Wolf in founding the festival and getting the association on solid footing. “The association is definitely not operating in the red.”

Kuuskmann, ever the performer, could not resist a plug for the upcoming concert featuring Mad Fusion on July 7. “They are a fabulous jazz trio, one of the groups that shouldn’t be missed. They are an absolute phenomenon, one of a kind. They range from funk jazz to classical and are very exciting to watch,” he enthused. “Tickets are very affordable,” he quickly added.

Born in Tallinn, Estonia, Kuuskmann received his Master of Music at the Yale University School of Music. A highly sought after chamber musician and recording artist, Martin has been a guest at international music festivals in Hamburg, Gstaad, Kristiansand, among many others. The New York Times has praised Kuuskmann’s playing as "dynamic, amazing, gripping.” He lives in Blaine with his wife Tiiu and their three children.

Kuuskmann said, “We are looking for people to help support the teens with scholarship money for the Jazz Festival. For $250, a kid will get full tuition, while $600 covers tuition, room and board. Kids are coming from as far as New Orleans. The learning experience at the camp is invaluable.

“I want to take the association to a completely new level. We can’t do it without the funding but I’m confident we’ll get it. I can’t wait to tackle it,” Kuuskmann concluded.