Anna Moreau chats with Trevor Knox president of Perth Jazz Society.
President, Perth Jazz Society (three years)
WABN: Describe your role at the Perth Jazz Society.
TK: “As the organisation’s principal officer, I use my best endeavours to make certain the roles and responsibilities of elected management committee members, our paid employee and other volunteers are fulfilled through diligent stewardship, thereby ensuring the interests of our members are both protected and served.”
WABN: What were the major hurdles that came with changing venues last year? Did you get any benefit from it?
TK: “After a continuous residency of over 25 years in the same venue, being pressured into making a change was certainly an unwelcome prospect. Given the PJS had enjoyed a comfortable, supportive and harmonious relationship built over many years with the former venue owners, replicating these aspects, along with the facilities and services we were used to, is not without its challenges. However, some transitional issues are still being worked through.
“On the physical side, the effect of community pressure on live music venues regarding noise attenuation appears to be a general decline in the number of appropriate performance venues within the metropolitan area. To assess venue suitability, the PJS developed a list of essential criteria to meet our requirements. In summary, we needed a licensed, centrally located venue with an acoustically suitable performance room, with staging and lighting for the production of amplified jazz music, capable of accommodating a seated audience of up to 400 patrons.
“Other considerations were storage of our grand piano and equipment, along with placating members’ concerns over their personal security after dark through the provision of adequate on-site parking. Limited choices were available from suitable venues that essentially met our requirements.
“From a fiscal point of view, the change necessitated the negotiation of a completely new financial arrangement between the PJS and the venue in terms of sponsorship. Coupled with this was an upfront outlay of funds by the venue owners to undertake upgrades to certain aspects of the facilities to meet the expectations and demographic of our audience. It was a considerable financial risk by the owners, in return for an unquantifiable future return on their investment.
“Lastly, even after all our careful considerations regarding the move, one of the intangibles is the possible emotional effect this change has on existing members in their continuing support of the society in its new venue. After four months, maybe it is too early to gauge if any significant impact will result.
“I’m very optimistic this change will, in the long-term, prove beneficial to the society.
“Complacency can be one of the pitfalls of failing to review arrangements and we have received enough positive feedback from both performing musicians and our audience to support the undertaking we have made.”
WABN: What has been the most challenging event in your time at the Perth Jazz Society?
TK: “Through a combination of circumstances involving health issues, personality clashes, strained operational relationships and expectations regarding the future directions of the society, there was a considerable spill of long-standing management committee personnel at an AGM some three years ago.
“This event elevated me into the president’s role a little sooner than I had originally contemplated. However, with some appropriate damage limitation and retention of a small core of experienced committee members to provide continuity, the process of rebuilding the committee was undertaken.”
WABN: What is the main quality are you looking for within your team/committee/ volunteer members?
TK: “Most certainly enthusiasm, along with a preparedness to contribute at a level commensurate with their abilities towards the operation or management of the society.”
WABN: Is there an organistion/business model that you strive to achieve?
TK: “The current PJS constitution determines the affairs and business of the society is managed by a committee of up to 12 elected members. Within this group, specific roles and portfolios are allocated.
“I have some reservations on the effectiveness of such a large committee and would prefer to move to a different model where a smaller executive committee, comprising the five principal office holders – president, vice-president, administrator/secretary, treasurer and membership – become the decision makers, supported by a range of additional non-elected sub-committees (as required) to undertake routine matters and report back through one of executive officers.”
WABN: What is a highlight of your time at the PJS, and can you name a highlight in your career?
TK: “Probably one of the most enjoyable aspects of my time with the PJS has been becoming part of the wider jazz community, particularly here in Perth. As a non-musician, I initially felt it may be difficult to be accepted, however the warmth and friendship that has been extended to me by artists/performers, music educators and devotees of our very vibrant local jazz community has made me feel most welcome.
“The role of PJS president has provided an entrée into another level of contact and interaction with a whole range of other associated people within the music industry – festival organisers, tour promoters, sponsors, government officials, my peers from other state jazz organizations, and media personalities. As an added spin-off, I get to personally meet many acclaimed national and international jazz musicians who perform for the PJS.”
WABN: How do you deal with egos in your workplace?
TK: “Fortunately I can’t recall anyone with an ego that required dealing with.”
WABN: What frustrates you the most about your sector and what would you do to change it?
TK: “The lack of real career paths and opportunity for jazz musicians to make a full-time profession out of their music. We have one on the best university facilities at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, where young people compete with others from all over Australia to come and study here and gain their music degrees.
“However, post-university, little opportunity exists to follow their chosen course, other than on a part-time basis. In most cases, they are destined to augment their annual income through other sources, some completely unrelated to music.”
WABN: What are the specific hurdles that you meet on a daily basis in your sector? How do you deal with them?
TK: “The PJS contracts with jazz musicians to perform weekly concerts at our venue. As such, certain administrative tasks (contract signature and return, provision of written gig blurb, high density electronic photographs, ensemble line-ups, provision of tax invoices and on-line banking details to effect payment) require completion or submission by the artists to meet PJS time frames for advertising, promotional purposes and publication of our hard copy Jazzreview magazine.
“Most artists/musicians are self employed contractors who manage themselves. While their primary focus is their music – they compose, arrange, are accomplished players with great technique who love to perform – they could concentrate a little more attention on the business aspects of their musical careers, both from a marketing/ promotional and administrative perspective.
“The PJS administrator spends a disproportionate amount of her time following-up artists to supply this information, however I would like to see greater emphasis put into the business/management side of a musician’s development built into the curriculum for students undertaking degree studies at university.”
WABN: What were you doing before your current involvement with the PJS?
TK: “I had a 40-year state public service career.”