Wellington Scoop

Time to finance a big jazz band, says Rodger Fox, preparing for US trip

News from Rodger Fox Big Band
Wellington jazz legend Rodger Fox says it’s time for the government to step up and fund a professional big band.

Rodger and his big band are exhausted after having to fundraise $128,000 to get them to the prestigious 60th Monterey Jazz Festival this month. In the last three months the band has launched a crowd funding campaign, sought sponsorship and played numerous concerts to raise the money to get them to the United States.

The Monterey Jazz Festival is the biggest in the US and one of the Big Three in the world. By playing there alongside jazz greats such as Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, Rodger says his band will put New Zealand jazz on the world map.

The fundraising campaign has had its share of disappointments. Rodger says the greatest disappointment was the Minister Maggie Barry being unavailable over a three month period to meet with him.

However late last week New Zealand First arts spokesman Ron Mark pledged his personal support to establishing a “professional” jazz band and confirmed he’ll take a proposal to his policy committee.

Rodger explains that there are 120-130 jazz bands active in New Zealand secondary schools and more students are leaving wanting to play jazz than pursuing a career in singing or playing in an orchestra.

“Yet while there’s government funding for NZ Opera, the NZSO and Royal New Zealand Ballet, there’s nothing to support a fulltime jazz band,” Rodger Fox says. “I’ve prepared a submission which I’ll take it to whatever politician wants to see me.”

Rodger has led the country’s pre-eminent jazz band for 44 years and, during this time, neither he nor his band members have been paid. They receive expenses with any additional funding going into the jazz band account for touring and education.

“The last three months have taken a toll on me and my players but we’re determined to get there and make New Zealand proud,” Rodger says.

The band played their final fundraising concert at The Grand on Wellington’s Courtenay Place on Sunday and are now closing in on their target. They’re hoping that final donations will see them reach the $128,000 figure before they leave for the US next week.

Any donations can be made to www.rodgerfoxbigband.com