2023 was a fabulous year on many fronts for BuckingJam Palace and the charitable non-profit that runs our concert series, The BJP Music Foundation. We sold out our concerts; we hosted top-tier jazz artists; we collaborated on projects with the American Consulate, Women Band Directors International and Jazz Denmark. There were so many beautiful musical moments and every concert felt like a celebration with valued friends.
The BJP Board did a lot of strategic work this year around what the future might look like for our volunteer-run organization. In February 2023, we welcomed a largely new volunteer board of directors and passed the Board Chair torch to Jodi Lucas, our former VP. I love that our business model works because of the strength of our community and the goodwill of our dedicated volunteers: that’s how the arts have always thrived.
We are clearly filling a gap in Calgary’s music culture. But if we want to be sustainable, we need to address our vulnerabilities: reliance upon a free venue, volunteer leaders who have reached capacity, and opportunities limited by space and budget to expand programming and welcome a wider community, including young people, to concerts.
We Canadians have a lot to be thankful for in the grant funding that is available to the arts. In 2023, the BJP Music Foundation was successful in securing grants for the following projects that will support our sustainability:
- The Rozsa Foundation, in concert with CADA and The Calgary Foundation, funded a Future Focus grant. Our board and stakeholders worked with Michèle Stanners of ViTreo to identify what BJP needs to do to become a sustainable organisation.
- The Calgary Foundation funded a half-time Executive Director for two years via a Community Grant which allows me (Lisa) to step down as ED. We were proud to be one of only two arts organizations to be successfully funded during this grant cycle. The BJP Board was delighted to welcome Shana Barbour to this role on January 8th, 2024.
- The Calgary Arts Development Authority provided an operating grant over the next two years. This will allow us to grow our organizational capacity by renting space outside of the house, expanding our programming, hiring a sound engineer and photographer for some concerts, updating the website, and subsidizing tickets for students….
- The Crisis Recovery Fund provided the means to work with IntegralOrg to rework the archaic foundational and governance policies of the Companies Act under which BJP is incorporated. We will be establishing a process for making qualified disbursements to grantee organizations which will allow us to provide tax-receipting support to the work of organizations whose values resonate with those of BJP but who do not have charitable status.
We don’t want to become reliant upon grants for our operation: this funding helps us get over the speed bump of developing capacity—both in space and personnel—when we are already functioning at our limit. So here is what you can expect to see over the next two years and the impact of the work we anticipate:
- Concerts in other spaces. Affordable venue space in Calgary is almost non-existent. BJP is looking for unique character spaces with good acoustics that can seat an audience of 100 and—here’s the biggest challenge—has a grand piano. (The cost to bring in a piano for each concert is about $1000, even if the rental is donated). If, in your travels, you come across spaces that might work, please let us know! Ultimately, we’d like to find a permanent home where we could host jazz each weekend and make space available to artists and other non-profit organizations. The City of Calgary offers property tax relief to businesses who lease to non-profits. We think Calgary is ready for weekly programming in a jazz club and are working towards making that happen.
- A donor and sponsorship program. To be self-sustaining, we need to build our own funding for a part-time staff person and programming. We will not compromise our core commitment to paying musicians fairly in order to fund the running of the organization: that would defeat our whole purpose. We want to keep our grass-roots approach while recognising that the workload has exceeded what our volunteer leaders can manage.
- More collaborations. The Jazz Camp for Girls that we presented in collaboration with Jazz Denmark in November was incredibly inspiring and involved the support of CADME and Long and McQuade, as well as Nordic Bridges and other Danish funders. This international collaboration was the first of its kind in Canada. Behind the scenes, our house performance space has been used by The CPO, IndigiDivas, the Allegra Chamber Orchestra, Women Band Directors International, Frog Fest, The American Consulate, and many artists who needed rehearsal and recording space. We want to expand our capacity to share creative space and support the efforts of our colleagues in the artistic community.
Many of you know BuckingJam Palace’s origin story: my family started hosting music in 2015 when Calgary’s only jazz club at the time folded. Tom and I were not passionate jazz fans but we loved the community of jazz musicians we had come to know through our son, John. Together with daughters Emily and Katie, we decided to light a candle rather than curse the darkness and outfitted our 1910 home as a venue. That decision has enriched our lives more than we could possibly have imagined.
So, THANK YOU…
To the board members of the BJP Music Foundation who have worked so hard to shepherd our venture into the future;
To the musicians who have played our concert series and shared their spirits and creativity with us;
To the funders who have provided a way forward;
And to all of you who come to concerts, bring your friends and always have a supportive word. It is a privilege to know you.
Forward into 2024!
Artistic Director and Founder, BJP Music Foundation