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Rodger Fox Big Band Funding Appeal - a personal message from Mike Booth



Recently we’ve learned that the planned RFBB trip to the JEN conference (Jazz Educators Network) is in jeopardy because there is a shortfall of funds. The trip goes on from New Orleans to Washington D.C. and Baltimore (gigs with Dennis Chambers) and New York to record. There are more than 20 people in the tour group but the funds needed is only for the players.

The hope that some financial support might come from arts funding has not materialised. There’s a rationale that you could apply here .. and comment on both sides - making positive and negative points about such an undertaking. 

In the odd chat over the last couple of days, I’ve heard the comment that there’s SO much money needed there’s no point in donating. There has already been quite a positive response and in the first five days of the funding drive donations total $27,265.00, but let’s think further about the idea that your donation may not be worthwhile. The original shortfall figure suggested was $89,000 this is now down to $61735 and this is just a portion of the money the band has already raised towards the trip.  As you can see your donation will make a difference.

Let’s consider the odds 

That’s 89 people donating a thousand each. Not in my budget!
It’s 178 people donating $500 each. Still a bit out of my range.
It’s 500 people donating $178 each .. getting a little more comfortable.
What about a thousand people donating $89 each? This is pretty realistic. That’s a number I can manage and surely there are  1000 people even in the niche category of Jazz who will generously look on this endeavour with friendly support.

Supporters response is already very encouraging but there’s some way to go.

I’m currently a freelance Trumpet player in Auckland. I teach Jazz trumpet at Auckland University.
My reason for writing this? … around 50 years ago I turned up to one of the early rehearsals of a Big Band start-up. It was, from memory, a Sunday (could have been Saturday) morning at the Wellington Musicians Club. I knew Rodger from the music store he worked at and also his reputation playing with Quincy Conserve. I had played in a Big Band in Hamilton but this big band was something more. It had energy and spirit and for an 18 year old Trumpet player, it was pretty damn exciting! Add to that the opportunity to play and learn from some very good players.

This was the start of the Rodger Fox Big Band. Jazz was new to me and I didn’t really equate my attempting to play a solo as playing Jazz. My previous music experiences were mostly in youth orchestras and I’d come to Wellington to do classical music at Vic. As it turned out I joined a funk/disco band (Collision) and we went to Australia to try our luck from “77 - ’79.

Back from OZ at the end of ’79 I rang Rodger and asked if there was much happening in Wellington. He invited me down, I stayed at his place and again got immersed in the Wellington scene. Cutting out the personal detail from that time I ended up going with Rodger's band to the Montreux Jazz Festival in both 1980 and in ’81. Wow, what an experience! Literally a once in a lifetime experience - twice! We had played with some great international guests in NZ and recorded with a couple of them - Tom Harrell and John Schofield - in New York! We toured Poland and played at Ronnie Scotts in London!

After those trips Rodger brought trumpeter Bobby Shew to Wellington. This was a life-changing event for me. For the first time, I was in the same room with someone who could play better than I could ever dream of playing and sounded just like the best records I’d ever listened to. Right there at rehearsal in the same room!  It was the inspirational moment that changed my life. I dared to consider that if Bobby could do it then maybe so could I. I’m still on that journey by the way - no one can play like Shew. My personal inspirations over the next few years were Gordon Brisker (sax), Bill Reichenbach (Trombone), Shew again, Chuck Findley, and there were many more inspirational players covering all instruments. =

The best part of all of this is that these people - amongst the best players around - came to NZ to relax and enjoy so we got to meet them and know them in a way that would be much more difficult in their hometowns.

Thanks to having those contacts I managed a semester at Berklee College (Boston), made my way to Europe and had enough jazz learning to have a good start and work/teach in the Netherlands as a musician for pretty much 18 years.

Since being back in NZ I’ve had the privilege of sitting in Rodger's band from time to time. Once again I’ve played on stage with some of the world's best musicians. The players in the band are better than ever and I think a testament to the steady and ambitious contribution that Rodger has made to NZ jazz and more broadly the NZ music scene. Rodger has doggedly maintained the legacy over all of those years which is not only beneficial to his band members but also to the many high school students who benefit from the educational work Rodger and the band do. 

My point? My experience is not unique. I’m just one of what must be something like at least 500 to a thousand plus musicians who have had the benefit of Rodger's efforts over the years. Many of these players have become lifelong friends and colleagues. My overriding sentiment on reflection of those years is one of gratitude. 

Will this be the last time the RFBB needs money to do things? No is the answer. Can it be self-supporting? Sometimes but not on this occasion. Is it worth supporting? You bet.

What about a thousand couples splitting the $89 .. $45.50 each .. gotta be doable!

Just my two cents worth.

Best, Mike Booth

Mike Booth


Rodger Fox Big Band Funding Appeal - a personal message from Mike Booth

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