Commentary: Why jazz? Why here? Why now?
Recent publicity about the Winter Jazz Weekend event planned in Bridgeport on Jan. 28-30 by the West Virginia Jazz Society may have many people asking why all the fuss about jazz music in a place where other genres may be more well known and at a time when people are spending less on entertainment and travel.
The answer to “Why jazz?” In marketing and investment terms, jazz music is a classic example of an undervalued security with tremendous growth potential. Jazz music is not just a style of music, it is also a mass market commodity. Jazz music’s American pedigree is well-established and has been featured by the noted documentary film maker, Ken Burns, who chose “Jazz” as the subject of one of his Oscar winning productions, along with “The Civil War” and “Baseball.”
Jazz enjoys “high positives” among consumers because of its unique place among indigenous American art forms, and its association with education and fine arts. At one time, jazz music was enjoyed in nearly every American household, so the potential is there.
We want to bring jazz to central West Virginia because of our ideal location. Central West Virginia is right in the middle of the eastern United States jazz market, the biggest market for jazz in the world. Today if you want to hear and see good jazz in a club environment, you will need to visit New York City or one of the other urban hot spots in the eastern U.S.
Central West Virginia is perfectly poised to benefit from its central location in the jazz music marketplace because our Interstate highways and airport make it easy to get here. And this is a time when people are looking for recreational alternatives that are easy to reach and closer to home.
To understand why now is the time to invest in jazz music, one need merely look at the history of jazz as a commodity and see the economic potential of jazz today in the light of new technologies.
Today, we have the Internet and MP3 technology and a new generation of musicians who know how to take advantage of those technologies. These “young lions” of jazz also realize they need to expand their audiences, and are focused on engaging with new markets and those they entertain.
Our vision is for central West Virginia to become a destination for jazz music fans. In furtherance of that goal, the West Virginia Jazz Society, Inc. is working with area educators, convention and visitors bureaus, sponsoring businesses and generous donors to create an educational and cultural event that will enhance economic development and contribute to the cultural landscape of our communities.
In addition to the main events, there are many free activities planned for the community at large, including specialized educational events for students as well as performances by top quality musicians from West Virginia and from many of the big city jazz music scenes.
The Board of Directors of the WVJS encourages everyone to get involved and to take advantage of what is a new and promising opportunity to improve and enhance our region’s economic development.