Editorial: Cautious note on big band funding

By Kelly Makiha

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Famous jazz trombonist Rodger Fox has called for the Government to support a full-time, paid jazz band.

After 40 years of directing New Zealand's leading big band, Fox is preparing a case to submit to Creative New Zealand and the Government for a full-time jazz orchestra.

Fox established the Rodger Fox Big Band in Wellington in 1973 but, to make ends meet, pursues a day time career as lecturer in jazz at the New Zealand School of Music.

Now he believes the time is right to structure a case for Government consideration.

He is currently establishing a business model, preparing a submission and collecting letters of support from about 30 colleagues he wrote to late last year.

His argument centres around the fact New Zealand has a full-time symphony orchestra, other subsidised orchestras, opera and ballet companies and great armed services bands but no jazz band that receives Government funding.

He says New Zealand has more musos wanting to learn jazz than classical musicians studying to play solo or in orchestras and yet there's no full-time big band to aspire to or set the benchmark.

He says there are nearly 100 big bands established in New Zealand secondary schools, more than high school orchestras.

He says all income from concerts, gigs and public appearances has gone into a trust fund to pay for music, improve player performance and engage top artists.

He believes if a full-time jazz orchestra is set up, top performers can be supported at home rather than seeking careers overseas, and the band can take its talent and repertoire all over New Zealand.

On the face of it, this seems like a damn fine argument.

New Zealand music has to move with the times.

Why should Creative New Zealand funding just go to the likes of orchestras when there are other musical genres willing and able to make good use of the funds?

Fox is a legendary name in the music industry.

If anyone deserves a shot, it is he and I wish him all the best with his proposal. But the cynic in me is wondering where it will stop.

All musicians do it hard in New Zealand and would love to be funded. The Government doesn't have an endless pool of money and what's stopping blues, country, rock and roll, reggae and hip hop groups also putting their hands up for a similar deal.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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