Music News & Reviews

Jazz Fest scrambles after loss of contributor

With a month remaining before the Wichita Jazz Festival, director Craig Owens found that a major contributor pulled out, leaving him to raise nearly half of his $16,000 budget.

The festival, April 14-17, features student and professional musicians, with many of the events scheduled at Wichita State University.

"I was so shocked I had to go back and raise money," Owens said. "I thought it was covered.

"... We are behind now. We need to be detailing things with the artists — can we provide them with hospitality, how far can we go with graphics? Those kind of things. I thought we had everything covered."

The festival's theme this year is women. It showcases female artists, musicians and writers.

Owens, an assistant professor of music and director of the jazz program at WSU, was recently asked to take over the festival when the former director, Tom Fowler, retired.

Last week, Owens approached longtime family friend Anna Anderson, executive vice president for international banking at Intrust Bank, and explained his dilemma. She quickly became intrigued by Owens' plight.

"I know Craig. He taught my son guitar lessons, and my son is now a musician living in California," Anderson said.

"When I saw what he designed for the festival I became excited by it. ... I put myself in his position — what would I do? I'd reach out to family and friends."

The mission, Anderson said, is to raise $8,000 in less than six weeks. She e-mailed more than 150 friends last week. So far, the women have raised $2,000.

She believes the money will soon come.

"In the general scheme of things, it is not a lot of money to raise," Anderson said. "It is a modest amount for a festival. It seemed to be do-able even though the time frame is very tight."

What happens if the money isn't raised?

"Oh, we will raise this. I have no doubt," Owens said. "This festival is going to happen. I will keep calling and meeting with people. This money will come in."

Leading artists and performers that festival organizers have invited include:

* Sabrina McCormick, author and filmmaker on "No Family History," which chronicles the lives of three women diagnosed with breast cancer in three states. The film was an independent selection at the Philadelphia film festival of 2009 and selected as Best Real Time Documentary at the event.

* Michelle Mercer, who grew up on a dairy and wheat farm near Conway Springs and now lives in Colorado. She produces regular essays and reports for National Public Radio and is the author of "Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter" and "Will You Take Me As I Am."

* Nicole Mitchell, Chicago flutist, composer, bandleader and educator. In 2006, Mitchell placed first in Downbeat magazine Critic's Poll for Rising Star Flutist and was named "Chicagoan of the Year" in 2006.

* Linda Oh, who lives in New York City and teaches and conducts jazz video conference classes for high schools around the nation.

Admission to all but one of the events at the festival is free; the Saturday night concert is $15.

Anderson said if the money isn't raised then perhaps the cost of the tickets might have to go up.

"It is tough because Craig wants to keep the ticket prices low so no one gets excluded," she said.

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