Virtually on the eve of the MJC commencing our 42nd. Annual Program this Sunday, we have just been informed that it will again be without any State, as well as Federal, funding. We actually applied for 13 month funding (starting in December) from Music Australia, and was informed of their decision on December 1. However, Creative Victoria ‘topped’ that degree of efficiency, as we were notified of their outcome on Friday, January 5. (Arts bureaucrats had a time-worn cliche of “forward planning”, but I guess that is rather redundant in these times).

With the formation of Music Australia from the Music program at the Australia Council (now Creative Australia), there is a $69.4 million scaled increase over a 4 Year allocation.

While that seemed to be a most promising development for the overall music scene, Matthew Westwood’s article “Whole New Song Sheet” in The Australian on Friday, August 25 stated that Music Australia is designed specifically to assist Australian rock and pop musicians “rather than musicians in other genres such as jazz and contemporary classical. Those other genres have been well served by existing grant-giving structures including peer review…”

In the case of the category of Arts Projects for Organisations and Individuals, there were additional “new” funds added to the existing funding pool, but the overall success rate for the September round was still only 18% (albeit up from 14% in the previous March round). As always these days, there was no specific feedback provided, except that the MJC application was In the top one-third (meaning it ranked well, but not in the successful percentage).

With Creative Victoria, the success rate was 4% (that is not a “typo” – yes, it was four %). This clearly supports the widespread belief that Victoria’s finances have been bleed by all of the blowouts with Dan Andrew’s ambitious “big build” projects (On that issue, if Melbourne’s population continues to grow as expected, it seems imperative for the State Government to plan ahead, for a change).

In regard to Federal funding, there were the usual cliched motherhood statements of ‘supporting the whole ecosystem’ with the Revive policy asnnouncement, but the reality is that the bureaucrats never seem to find a way to effectively do this (and it is always a better news story for a politician to announce a large grant, rather than a collection of more modest ones). It seems that the Rock and Pop music promoters have joined the Australian Opera and other strong lobby groups in soaking up the bulk of Federal funding, with a sprinkling of token ‘creative’ projects.

This is not just an ‘angry’ protest about funding to the MJC, but one about a large number of small to medium size arts organisations that ‘bat above their weight’, yet are undervalued, and are in imminent danger of ‘falling over’.

After the previous Federal Government poured so much funding into community sports facilities, there now seems to be a continual flow of sports people demanding better payment in previously semi-amateur sports.

But meaningful support for creative jazz musicians in Australia? Obviously a ridiculous and idealistic notion in this country.

Speaking of which, there have been regular meetings of a significant number of people in Wangaratta (reported in The Chronicle newspaper, on December 22) who are wanting to see the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz continue. Having advised the group about funding opportunities, I feel that they have been well and truly ‘snookered’ with the key funding deadlines in 2023 being ignored by the retiring Board.

But it is encouraging to see some much community support for the event. As I wrote previously, you need to be optimistic in the contemporary jazz scene…

Our first gig for 2024 at The Jazzlab on January 7 features two expatriate artists who are based in Europe. Bandleader Raj Jayaweera has enticed Berlin-based guitarist Carl Morgan to come to Melbourne for this exclusive performance, and that makes this an extra special event to open our 42nd. Annual Program.

Also, I am more than interested to hear the on-going development of another expatriate, exciting saxophonist Stephen Byth, in both his quartet on the 14th., and as part of Joel Trigg’s CD Launch on the 21st.

Uptown Jazz Cafe are raising funds to buy their current Kawai piano

And, sad to see the recent passing of tenor saxophonist Steve Dagg, who was a gentle person, and a melodic soloist in the broad style of Lester Young. While sadly not widely-known to local jazz audiences, I do know that the late Mark Simmonds admired Steve’s playing (as did I, and his peers). One of 1980s group was called “Romance Without Finance”, with Rebecca Barnard, and which apts sums up ‘the jazz life’ for many. Vale.