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Jazz festival won't return to Whistler without municipal support

JOMAW founder Arne Schwisberg asks for $150,000 in RMI funds



Jazz on the Mountain at Whistler (JOMAW) will not return for 2012 unless the municipality steps up with money and conceptual help.

The festival's founder and producer Arnold Schwisberg is asking for increased engagement from Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) staff, as well as $150,000 in Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funds to help alleviate the festival's $500,000-plus deficit — a deficit that Schwisberg contends is the result of the RMOW's mismanagement of the jazz festival brand.

He's asking for an answer by April 22. In an email exchange with Schwisberg, the RMOW's John Rae states alll JOMAW application materials will be reviewed in May. Schwisberg says it will be "too late" by then and he's now urging the community to write to council to save the festival.

"Without municipal engagement (Jazz on the Mountain at Whistler) is not going to come back," he says.

Despite JOMAW being a financial bust Schwisberg says that critical reception to the 2011 festival has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly from the artists. As a result, JOMAW has been offered "jazz royalty" to play at the festival — including Diana Krall and Michael Bublé.

"The royalty of the jazz world want to come here," he says.

"...(But) we don't have the budget to bring Diana Krall here just yet," due mainly to the deficit.

At the root of Schwisberg's concerns over the RMOW's mismanagement of his brand are a series of advertisements in Vancouver publications advertising the jazz festival as part of the municipality's free Whistler Presents concert series —without his consent. This was a critical factor in poor ticket sales, says Schwisberg.

According to a municipal spokesperson, the Whistler Presents marketing campaign was "an extension of the Tourism Whistler (2011) summer marketing program."

In an email to the Pique TW's Breton Murphy explained: "With input from the RMOW, Tourism Whistler developed and executed the marketing of Whistler's festival and events programming for 2011."

Later ads made the distinction between the free concerns and the ticketed events for the jazz festival after JOMAW called attention to the misleading nature of the original ads. But the damage had been done, says Schwisberg.

A key missing step in how the situation unfolded, says Scwisberg, was the failure of the RMOW to ask JOMAW to sign off on the ad copy.

In an ad that ran in the Georgia Straight in the August 4 edition under a headline reading: Summer in Whistler is Fresh, Free, Fun — the listing under Sept 2-4 says, "33 GIGS IN 3 DAYS. Whistler Village gets all jazzed up for the first JAZZ ON THE MOUNTAIN music festival."

Says Schwisberg: "That's a very serious challenge to overcome when people expect it to be free because it's advertised as such."