“Jazz Fest @ The Fountains”
Rutherford County Schools Fine Arts Department
Jazzfest is a community event in Rutherford County, TN that celebrates jazz music and the inclusion of jazz in our school music education programs. The event includes performances by middle and high school jazz bands from throughout the county, as well as professional jazz groups. Jazzfest has been a staple event in the Rutherford County community for over 25 years. When the organizers decided to cancel the 2023, community advocates came together to ensure Jazzfest continued.
- To continue a 25-year community tradition
- To provide music students with a premier performance opportunity
- To provide the community with access to a family-friendly event and exposure to great jazz music
The primary target audience were music/band students within the Rutherford County school system as well as private schools within the county. The primary purpose for ensuring the continuation of the event was to ensure a premier community performance opportunity for the students.
A secondary target audience were Rutherford County community members. This event is a long-standing favorite within the community, and ensuring its continuation was important for preserving support for jazz music as part of the fabric of the community and education system.
Planning and event preparation occurred between November 2022 and May 2023. Chronological events included:
November 2022 – Rutherford County music educators notified that Jazzfest 2023 would be cancelled
January 2023 – Small group of Rutherford County Schools representatives and community stakeholders begin meeting to determine the feasibility of reviving the event
January 2023 – Community business owner commits to providing the venue for the event at no charge
February 2023 – Community stakeholders begin fundraising efforts for Jazzfest 2023; Steering committee is formed to organize the event; School ensembles are invited to participate
March/April 2023 – Marketing and communications for the event (including an event facebook page, interviews with band directors, school district social media posts, and signage); Continued fundraising and operations preparation
May – Event occurred on May 6, 2023
Overview of Planning and Execution
The Steering Committee included:
Tammy Sharp – Chairwoman, Rutherford County School Board – Chief Organizer
Katie Darby – Rutherford County School Board Member – General Organization and Fundraising
Claire Maxwell – Rutherford County School Board Member
Phil Wilson – Rutherford County Commissioner – General Organization and Fundraising
Lindsay Halford – Rutherford County Coordinator of Fine Arts – School District Communications and Stage Equipment Coordinator
Scott Kinney – Rutherford County Schools Band Director – School Ensemble Coordinator and Band Director Communications
Karl Wingruber – Private School Band Director – Professional Musician Contracts
Beth Priest – Band Parent Representative – Social Media and Marketing Strategies
Brandise Raikes – Band Parent Representative – Sponsorship and Marketing Strategies
Ron Alley – Community Arts Organization (Carpe Artista) Leader – Non-Profit Fiscal Sponsor/Budget/Web Design
Susan Gulley – Rutherford County Convention and Vistors Bureau – Overall Event Organization and Sponsorships
Thom Christy – Local Radio Station Personality – Media Release
The Steering Committee met frequently between the months of January and May for planning purposes, and each had responsibilities to complete between meetings. Total time commitment varied among team members, but averaged around 80 hours per individual over the months leading up to the event.
Tools and Resources
Local business contacts and sponsorships, grant funding, social media (Facebook & Twitter), local radio, local news outlets (WKRN News 2 – Nashville), school district communications (videos, social media posts)
Marketing and Promotion
Facebook event page, word-of-mouth, local news segments, radio interviews, school district video and social media posts
The total expenditure amount for the event was $11,000. Expenditure items included:
Audio Production Equipment
Fiscal Sponsor Operating Costs
The biggest obstacle was limited time to plan the event. The announcement from the original organizers that they were cancelling the event came in November 2022, which left only 6 months for a new volunteer committee to form and plan a major event. Another obstacle was lack of funds – this project had no start-up funds, and everything had to be fundraised from the ground up.
We were able to overcome these obstacles in several ways. First, we maintained a positive relationship with the original JazzFest organizers (Main Street Murfreesboro), and they became the largest sponsoring organization for the event, covering a major portion of the production equipment rental with grant funding. We also sought out key in-kind sponsorships, including a partnership with The Fountains to provide the venue at no cost. With those important components in place, we were able to spend our limited time seeking out corporate sponsorships to cover the rest of the expenses. Given our limited time frame, we also made the decision to focus on the most important aspect of the event, which was the student performers and their experience. With that focus in mind, we shifted the event from a two-day event to a one-day event and scheduled professional groups throughout the day, so that student musicians had a chance to see those high level performances.
The initiative was successful and effective in engaging 14 school ensembles and 385 students from within the county who all had the opportunity to perform at the event. The event was well-attended, with over 4,000 community members attending throughout the day. There was also a positive impact on local restaurants and businesses at the venue, who saw increased business traffic during the event. The community supported the event, with more than 14 corporate and individual sponsorships.
This initiative maintained a now 26-year-old community institution and updated it for current community needs. The biggest impact was on the school ensembles and students, who were able to perform in a premier community venue. The students were also able to hear professional jazz groups as part of the event. In the big picture, this event remains relevant and important for music education in our community, because this ongoing event promotes jazz education within our schools. Most middle and high schools in Rutherford County have robust jazz programs, due in part to this premier community event for which ensembles can prepare.
Advice for others?
For any major performance event, we recommend engaging and finding support with all stakeholder groups. We also recommend finding a primary focus for the project. Keeping this focus allowed us to have a successful event, even with significant changes to the original concept.