Exclusive interview with Jazz Festival's spanking new Executive Director

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Mike Forrester just arrived in Vancouver four weeks ago. And he’s jumping head-first into managing the largest jazz festival in BC.

Mike sounds ready for it. He’s managed a staggering array of arts organizations in his native Toronto, and seems full of excitement for becoming the new face of the Jazz Festival in Vancouver. I chatted with Mike on the new role and where the festival is headed next under his leadership.

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Mike Forrester grew out of commercial recordings and film scores, starting out as a French horn player. After sustaining an injury that ended his musical career prematurely, Mike fell into broadcasting. Specifically, dealing with the recording industry and performing arts, eventually building it into a significant part of the company over a 10 year tenure. After that, it was a wide variety of local and national arts organizations, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Luminato Festival. “I’ve had a great life in this business, I really have. But jazz is really another animal, and the opportunity to use all the things I’ve learned over a long and varied career is just fantastic for me. I’m thrilled to be here.”

When the posting came out, Mike sent off a resume on a whim, answering a deep longing in him for a change of pace from the Toronto scene. What he found, as he got more into the interview process, was a wonderful passion and drive within all of the staff at the Jazz Festival. “I thought, yeah, I could play a good role here.”

Journey To The West

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Mike’s happiest moment of his going away party in Toronto was giving away his ice chopper. The move west is really a lifestyle choice for him and his family. He’s always loved Vancouver, having been here so many times on business trips for various organizations. With four weeks notice, Mike packed up house and drove across the country to start a new life. Happily, he’s landed a few blocks from Commercial Drive and has found an embracing, inclusive community on his doorstep.

First Steps and Challenges

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Mike’s first step is to shake hands and get to know all of the supporters and donors that support the Jazz Festival. His next is to strategically decide where the festival is going, and how he will help guide it there.

There’s much risk involved in the art form. Changes to the entertainment industry and performing arts have brought pressures on every form of revenue. Mike especially notes that there isn’t a history of philanthropy within jazz, which is among the revenue diversification areas that he’d like to develop moving forward. “What’s happening in the publishing and recording industry is now happening in performing arts, concerning the devaluation of music monetarily through the Internet.”

That’s not to say that the Festival hasn’t weathered all of these ups and downs. Mike notes that the festival has been running in the black for many years, and that sponsorship is a huge factor to that success. The key to a headline sponsor like TD Canada Trust, he claims, is that it has to be a real partnership and consultative dialogue: “Once we go into the agreement, we are at least, in some degree, in their business and generating a return for them for their investment.”

Still, plans for careful expansion are in place. Mike would like the Jazz Festival to take on more of a community role and expand year-round offerings. Partnerships and outreach are also huge on his mind, especially in lobbying to the government to increase music education in schools and beyond.

I can’t wait to see a Jazz Festival renewal next year. Welcome to Vancouver, Mike!

 

Vancity Buzz is a proud media partner of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival

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Cecilia Lu Arts & Culture Editor at Vancity Buzz. Cecilia a sucker for great indie theatre and anything really geeky. Lethal drink of choice: single malt whisky. cecilia[at]vancitybuzz[dot]com
@CeciliaLu

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